An article in today’s Wall Street Journal profiled an educator from South Korea named Kim Ki-Hoon. Mr. Kim has several things in common with many of our Posnack teachers. He has been teaching for more than 20 years, he works about 60 hours per week, and he relies on his tutoring business to earn extra money. So what is it about Mr. Kim that sets him apart from other teachers, including those of us at Posnack? The difference is that Mr. Kim earns $4 million a year. Yes – you read that correctly. Mr. Kim earns $4 million a year delivering recorded lectures on the Internet, tutoring students online, and through the sale of textbooks and workbooks as part of his online tutoring academy.
Mr. Kim has effectively capitalized on the demand in his country for high-level student achievement. South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore all consistently rank at the top of the Trends In International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). This study evaluates student achievement in both Math and Science at the 4th and 8th grade levels. More than 60 countries around the world participate in this study which is administered every 4 years. Not too long ago, South Korea and Singapore were impoverished nations with high illiteracy rates and low high-school graduation rates. Today, South Korea and Singapore regularly outrank the United States, not only in the TIMSS results, but in their literacy and graduation rates as well.
Just to be clear, the United States still ranks well above other participating countries. But what can we learn about the curriculum and instructional methods of the top ranking countries, and how can we incorporate their techniques into our classrooms? Research has shown that a determining factor for academic success is the ability to think critically and be able to apply learned strategies to unfamiliar situations. This year at Posnack we are continuing in our quest to further develop the critical thinking skills of our students in all academic areas. Beginning in Kindergarten, students will be focusing on place value and number sense through Abacus Math. Our Singapore Math program has been expanded and its strategies will be used in all grades, K-8. Will our teachers be earning $4 million like Mr. Kim? Sorry teachers, that’s probably not going to happen. But with the dedication, drive, and determination of our fantastic faculty, I know our students will feel like a million bucks!