The Most Educated Countries in the World

Last modified 08 July 2022
Categories: News
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The Most Educated Countries in the World

Singapore, Finland and the Netherlands have been named the three most educated countries in the world, according to a recent report by the World Economic Forum (WEF). As part of its 2016-2017 Global Competitiveness Report, the non-profit foundation ranked countries based on a variety of objective and subjective factors including tertiary enrolment and completion rates.

After Singapore, six of the top ten most educated countries on the WEF list are European – with Australia, the United States, and New Zealand following closely behind.

To gain an understanding of each of the WEF’s top ten, we take a look at what makes their education offering so strong.
1. Singapore

Considered world leading and known for its intensity, Singapore’s education system is second to none. It makes up about 20% of the annual national budget, which subsidises state education for citizens. According to SingStat, 43.8% of the population has obtained a diploma, professional qualification or university level degree. The Ministry of Education claims the universities in Singapore “prepare students not only for today’s economy but also for a future one with new jobs and challenges that do not exist today.”

2. Finland

Teachers in Finland are required to earn a masters degree in education and are selected from the top 10% of the country’s graduates, making the system widely-acclaimed. Higher education is almost entirely government-run, with the government spending nearly 2% of its GDP on bachelor’s degree equivalent programs – higher than every other country in the world, other than Korea.

3. Netherlands

One-third of Dutch 25-64 year olds hold a university degree, which is significantly higher than the world average of 24%. More than 40% of the population participate in higher education in general, with many people taking on vocational training. The country ranks highly in all fields of education, known for methods that rely on practice and practical engagement.

4. Switzerland

Private higher education establishments are a key feature of the Swiss education system, particularly in the field of hospitality education. The country boasts a high quality schooling system, and education system as a whole, with a strong rate of vocational training and high level of skill diversity.

5. Belgium

In Belgium, unemployment rates for those with a tertiary education are much lower than the European average, with many crediting the reputation of the quality of education for this level. The country also experiences the highest level of preschool participation in the world, with well-paid teachers and a flexible higher education system.

6. Denmark

With a total expenditure of 7.9% of its GDP, Denmark spends the largest share of its wealth on education in comparison to other OECD countries. It also happens to be one of the very few countries where education expenditure grew in the financial crash between 2008-2010. That being said, tertiary attainment rates have increased, but more slowly than many other countries.

7. Norway

Norway’s level of education is increasing each year, with 32.2% of people having achieved a higher education qualification since finishing secondary school. The country is said to invest heavily in education, devoting approximately $14,000 USD per year per pupil from primary to tertiary studies.

8. United States

According to the OECD, 43% of adults in America have a university education. While spending on education decreased during the GFC, the U.S. still spent more than $22,700 USD per student per year across all levels of education during that time. Teachers in America also earn some of the highest salaries for their profession among developed nations.

9. Australia

Australia is considered a well-educated country, with a particularly high proportion of tertiary educated adults. Approximately 43% of adults have trained after leaving school, in addition to some of the lowest unemployment rates in the world for adults who’ve completed advanced research programs. International education is one of the country’s top two service exports, closely following tourism.

10. New Zealand

Ranking consistently among the top education systems in the world, New Zealand is considered an innovative country in the education space. Government spending in the country amounts to 7.28% of the GDP, with an estimated 21.2% of the government’s total spending going to education. Many New Zealanders are said to pursue technical or skills-based educations.
The consensus around the world is that education is highly valued, but what factors are at play when it comes to one nation being more educated than the next? America’s Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests “the most educated populations tend to be in countries where spending on all levels of education is among the highest.”

There’s also the argument that a country’s education and economy are closely linked. Interestingly, Switzerland, Singapore and the United States remain the three world’s most competitive economies, and all made the WEF’s top ten most educated nations.

A report by David Earle from New Zealand’s Ministry of Education states “improvements in education are associated with long-term improvements in economic performance.” Earle argues that education improves the overall skills and abilities of the workforce, leading to greater productivity and improved ability, and therefore growth in the economy.

It’s also said that in many of the countries with high levels of tertiary education, private funding accounts for a much larger proportion of spending than government. “In the U.S., for example, nearly three-quarters of all education spending came from non-public sources, compared to the OECD average of 32%,” reports 24/7 Wall St.

The site also argues that the more educated countries also demonstrate lower levels of unemployment. OECD analyst Gara Rojas Zozalez said, “at higher levels of [education] attainment, people are less exposed to unemployment and have better chances to keep participating actively in the economic system, for the benefit of both individuals and society.”
There’s no doubt that a country’s level of education and economy are closely linked. An increasing amount of students seek international education for this reason, as a handful of countries offer superior qualifications, systems and opportunities.
This article was written by Laura Hutton on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Business Insider, Singapore Ministry of Education, 247 Wall St, New Zealand Ministry of Education, The Telegraph UK, Masters Portal, Statistics Norway, Australian Government

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