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10 Best Countries for

Education Around
The World
 What’s up down under? Education for all. Placing
at the top of the Education Index in the United
Nations’ Human Development Report, the country-
continent of 24 million expects students will
complete an impressive 20-plus years of schooling
(The U.S., for comparison, expects 16). In fact,
100% of preschool, primary- and secondary-school
age kids are enrolled — and 94% of citizens over
25 have at least some secondary education. Hand-
in-hand with full classrooms (in a teacher-student
ratio of 14:1), Australia admirably supports its
educators. The nation gives incentives to teachers
taking rural hardship postings and, according to
the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s 2015 Education
for All Global Monitoring Report, is taking notable
“steps toward pay parity for teachers at all levels.”
 Thanks to an intense focus on academics
starting at age 6 (the primary school drop
out rate is just .2 percent), Japan’s students
have scoring well down to a science.
Ranking No. 2 in Pearson Education’s
annual global educational performance
report and placing fourth in reading and
seventh in math in the influential Program
for International Student Assessment (PISA)
survey — which tests 15-year-old students
worldwide in order to compare countries’
education systems — the Pacific Ocean
island nation is serious about learning. And
it’s paid off: The literacy rate of their 127
million citizens is 99 percent.
South Korea

 Standardized tests have met their match in

South Korea. Students in the 49-million-
person republic — who are randomly
assigned to private and public high schools
— routinely score at the top of academic
assessments: Most recently No. 1 overall,
and in “Educational Attainment,” in Pearson
Education’s annual global educational
performance report as well as fifth in both
reading and math on the PISA survey. Long
hours of study have helped the students
become so successful, reports the BBC,
noting that, “South Korean parents spend
thousands … a year on after-school tuition,”
for their kids’ evening cram sessions —
every day.
 Who knew that lots of breaks can help create
academic aces? The Finns. The Northern
European nation mandates that their kids —
who don’t begin studies until age 7 — have 15-
minute outdoor free-play sessions for every
hour of their five-hour school day. And though
grades aren’t given until fourth grade (and
schools don’t require any standardized tests
until senior year), their students’ achievement is
undoubted. Consistently high PISA survey
scorers, Finland’s latest rank is sixth in reading
and 12 in math. And it’s not just a few smarties
who secure the lead. According to
the Organization for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD), the difference
between the weakest and strongest students in
Finland is the smallest in the world.
 Norway, rated highest in human
development by the U.N., prioritizes
education for their 5.1 million residents. The
Nordic nation spends 6.6% of their GDP on
education (nearly 1.5% less than the U.S.
does) and keeps their student-teacher ratio
below 9:1. Relying on a national curriculum
that teachers interpret for their pupils — who
aren’t defined by grade level — arts and
crafts are part of the program, as well as
food and health, music, and physical
education. And their system is clearly
working. A hundred percent of Norway’s
school-age population is enrolled in school,
97 percent have some secondary education,
and they’ve closed the gender gap in
education to boot!

 Described as an “exam-oriented”
system, education in this island city-
state of nearly 5.7 million in
Southeast Asia strives to teach
children problem solving. They’ve
certainly figured out how to conquer
tests. Ranking No. 1 in Pearson
Education’s global educational
report for “Cognitive Skills” and No.
3 overall, Singapore placed high on
the PISA test too: No. 3 in reading
and No. 2 in math. Teachers study-
up in Singapore as well, participating
in professional development
throughout their careers.
 Geen Nederlands spreken? No problem.
Even non-Dutch speaking students get
the help they need to succeed in the
Netherlands’ schools. The country of 17
million — ranked No. 8 in Pearson
Education’s ratings and No. 10 in the
PISA survey — provides teaching in
languages other than Dutch for students
in grades 1 to 4 to foster learning in all
subjects. And to keep their 94%
graduation rate at the secondary level,
they also funnel extra funding to poorer
and ethnic minority students. According
to UNESCO, the primary schools with
the highest proportion of disadvantaged
students have, on average, about 58
percent more teachers and support staff.
 Dissatisfied with their scores on the
2000 PISA tests, the European
country — ranked 7 in the U.N.’s
Education Index — took action. They
reformed their education policy,
including, “the adoption of national
standards and increased support for
disadvantaged students,”
per UNESCO, and things turned
around for their 82 million population.
Today in the PISA rankings, Germany
sits at No. 20 in Reading, a two-spot
improvement, and is No. 16 in math, a
five-spot jump.
 It’s not the luck of the Irish that’s
earned the European nation sixth
place in the U.N.’s Education
Index. The country of 4.7 million
invests in the education of their
citizens, spending 6.2 percent of
their GDP on education (more
than double what Singapore doles
out). This prioritization has helped
Ireland give nearly 80 percent of
citizens at least some secondary
education and graduate 98
percent from secondary level
The United Kingdom
 Of Britons age 25 and older, 99.9
percent have had secondary education
in the U.K. (population 64 million). And
although England is currently
strategizing about how to
accommodate the extra 750,000
students that their Department of
Education estimates they’ll have in
their schools by 2025, the nation
remains an impressive No. 6 overall
in Pearson Education’s
performance report and second only to
South Korea in “Educational
Attainment.” Cheers to that!
10 Ways Schools Differ
Around the World
1. Chinese education
emphasizes memorization and
learning by drill
2. Religious dress is banned in
French schools
3. … but less than 3% of Irish
schools are non- or multi-
4. Bangladeshi schools are
sometimes on boats
5. Japanese schools teach moral
6. The majority of South Africans
pay for their children’s education
7. German schools are strongly
opposed to uniforms
8. The South Korean school day
is very long
9. Dutch students all start school
on their 4th birthday
10. Norway’s high school
graduation involves a three-week
 https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/
 https://www.oxford-