Top 20 Education Systems in the World

Yes, the United States makes the list, but a number of countries rank higher on the index developed by education and publishing firm Pearson.

The economic growth of a country is directly connected to the skills of its citizens. The tough part, and one some countries do better than others, is figuring out the best way to give those skills to students.

East Asian nations appear to have mastered the task, according to the latest edition of the Global Index of Cogniti9ve Skills and Educational Attainment published by Pearson. South Korea tops the ranking of 39 countries, followed by Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. You can check out the top 20 ranked countries below.

The index, using data gathered by The Economist Intelligence Unit, focuses on two categories of education: cognitive skills and educational attainment. For cognitive skills, researchers use the reading, math and science test scores from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study. the Programme for International Student Assessment and the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies. For educational attainment, the researchers look at literacy and graduation rates.

South Korea
1 2 1
Japan 2 4 6
Singapore 3 1 33
Hong Kong
4 3 18
Finland 5 5 4
UK 6 8 2
Canada 7 6 15
Netherlands 8 7 7
Ireland 9 10 10
Poland 10 16 3
Denmark 11 17 5
Germany 12 12 14
Russia 13 9 21
USA 14 11 20
Australia 15 13 13
New Zealand
16 21 8
Israel 17 14 22
Belgium 18 15 18
Czech Republic
19 20 16
Switzerland 20 23 12

Another interesting and important takeaway from the study: adults lose skills over time. Better retention of those skills depends on how they're used as well as the environment in which they are used. From around 25 years of age, skill levels tend to decline, even for folks who received a quality education.

In short: skills have to be used to be maintained. That means adults, and the companies that employ them, are doing themselves an economic favor by reading and completing mathematical activity long after they've completed school.

Executives at many large U.S. companies complain about a skills gap in science, technology, engineering and math . Some employers are desperate enough now that they're investing in employee training to fill that skills gap, according to an Accenture survey released last year.

There's a real cost to the bottom line as well -- among companies currently facing or anticipating a skills shortage, 66 percent anticipate a loss of business to competitors, 64 percent face a loss of revenue, 59 percent face eroding customer satisfaction, and 53 percent say they will face a delay in developing new products or services.

Photo: U.S. Department of Education


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