Over the past few years, the United States and other western countries have seen a trend of teachers quitting their jobs. Among their chief complaints is an overwhelming focus on standardized testing, and the feeling that their professional opinions are ignored. Perhaps as a result, the US was 29th in the most recent rankings of countries by education. So we wanted to know, which countries have the best education, and what are they doing right? In 2015, the OECD released a report on Universal Basic Skills, including one of the largest global education rankings. A substantial portion of the ranking is based on an international assessment of reading, mathematics, and science literacy, called PISA. Now, since the year 2000, Finland has topped most international education lists, especially based on PISA scores. But this year’s ranking, places Finland sixth worldwide. And while that’s partially the result of declining Finish test scores, it is much more so because a number of East Asian countries have come to dominate the list. In fact, all top five countries are located in and around East Asia: Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan.
And they’re all relatively wealthy nations, who share similar views on education. Succeeding in school is culturally stressed as a priority, and has an enormous impact on future prospects. This leads to intense competition, and subsequently higher overall scores. But in contrast to less effective education systems, these top ranking countries heavily invest in their teachers. For example, number one ranked Singapore is known for providing bonuses to well performing teachers, and attracts qualified instructors with competitive salaries. And as a number of Asian countries continue to see rapid economic growth, having a strong education system is integral to future economic success. Looking at the far end of education rankings, Ghana had the lowest secondary school enrollment rate of countries surveyed, as well as the lowest PISA scores. The OECD has predicted that if Ghana could meet universal basic skill goals, they could see their GDP rise 38 times higher over the lifetime of a child born today. They also point out that when a nation’s population is uneducated, it equates to lost economic output, and can lead to a permanent economic recession as a result.
Additionally, in countries like the UK, one in five children finish school without a basic level of education. Similarly in the US, around two-thirds of nine and ten year olds cannot yet read at their grade level. Some point to an emphasis on “repetitive rote learning”, rather than actual education. This is often the difference between hands on instruction, and standardized test-based goals. The latter has shown to fail both students and teachers. Education is one of the most important criteria for determining the present and future health of a nation. And while not every country has the resources or cultural emphasis for successful modes of teaching, it is clear that governments should be treating education as an extremely high priority. Sex education, on the other hand, is not always given priority by countries like the U.S. To find out which countries are actually teaching sex education right, check out our video.
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