Gav, while I’m inclined to agree that not everyone from the former eastern bloc takes school seriously, the opportunity to learn is there.

The Canadian system:

–In grade 2, we learn addition and subtraction.

–In grade 3, we spent all our time learning multiplication and adding fractions together.

–In grade 4, we learned division - long and basic.

–In grade 5, we continued with long division, working fractions and decimals in.

–In grade 6, which I spent half of in Canada, I cannot recall a single new lesson.

In the 18 months in Poland, I had to:

–Learn Newtonian physics almost entirely.

–Learn European history in a detail I didn’t see until University, and world history in detail I didn’t see until high school.

–Study the single greatest literary Polish work, “Pan Tadeusz”, by Adam Mickiewicz. This meant not only learning to read it, but learning to understand it and the context it was in.

–Go from long division to algebra and trigonometry.

–Learn chemistry.

–Learn basic human/mammal biology.

–Learn geography.

The things I knew in grade 6, most Polish kids learned halfway through grade 3. Division, multiplication, “science”, and language studies were on three years behind.

When I left Poland in grade 7, I spent the next 4 years not learning a single new mathematical or scientific concept. It wasn’t until the 2nd semester of grade 11 that I stepped beyond my knowledge, and that was only in math.

Now, I was always an exceptional student, and yes, I did eventually catch up in my Polish classes (though it was a traumatic and exhausting experience). And yes, there are students who left those classes knowing as little as Canadian kids do, but they all have at least a sense of world history, science and mathematics.

Furthermore, they don’t end up over-specialized. In University, westerners spend 4 years catching up - only in their field - to what Europeans know while simultaneously learning everything else. The education is far more focused, and yes, demanding, but it also leaves people hopelessly specialized.

A high school equivalent degree is still worth something in Europe, and it rounds out the person beyond his college studies. It also gives him a better idea of what he’ll want to actually study.