Singapore heads global education ranking

By on 14/05/2015 | Updated on 24/09/2020
‘Universal Basic Skills: What Countries Stand to Gain’ ranks the countries by their averaged mathematics and science test scores.

Singapore has come first in the biggest ever global school ranking which assessed 15-year-old pupils’ maths and science skills in 76 countries.

The report was published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) – an international economic organisation of 34 countries founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade.

Universal Basic Skills: What Countries Stand to Gain’ ranks countries by their averaged mathematics and science test scores.

Singapore, which heads the table, is followed by Hong Kong in second, Korea in third, Chinese Taipei in fourth and Finland in fifth place.

Ghana is at the bottom in 76th place, after South Africa in 75th, Honduras in 74th, Morocco in 73rd and Oman 72nd place.

Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at the OECD, told the BBC that “this is the first time we have a truly global scale of the quality of education”, and added: “The idea is to give more countries, rich and poor, access to comparing themselves against the world’s education leaders, to discover their relative strengths and weaknesses, and to see what the long-term economic gains from improved quality in schooling could be for them.”

The G20 countries have performed as follows:

South Korea 3rd
Japan 4th
Canada 10th
Germany 13th
Australia 14th
United Kingdom 20th
France 23rd
Italy 28th
United States of America 29th
Russian Federation 34th
Turkey 41st
Mexico 54th
Brazil 60th
Argentina 62nd
Saudi Arabia 66th
Indonesia 69th
South Africa 75th

China and India were not included in the ranking.

The full table can be found on page 37 of the report.

Schleicher and Qian Tang, assistant director-general at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), wrote in the report’s editorial “that the quality of schooling in a country is a powerful predictor of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run”, as shown by the results.

Or, “put the other way around,” the article says, “the economic output that is lost because of poor education policies and practices leaves many countries in what amounts to a permanent state of economic recession – and one that can be larger and deeper than the one that resulted from the financial crisis at the beginning of the millennium, out of which many countries are still struggling to climb.”

It also says that “while it is difficult for Ghana to meet the goal of universal basic skills any time soon, if it did, it would see a gain over the lifetime of its children born today that, in present value terms, is 38 times its current GDP. This is equivalent to tripling Ghana’s discounted future GDP every four years during the working life of those students with improved skills.”

It adds that more inclusive growth would be made possible if basic skills were achieved and concludes that “the message of these rather complex analyses is simple: there is no shortcut to improved learning outcomes in a post-2015 world economy where knowledge and skills have become the global currency, the key to better jobs and better lives; and there is no central bank that prints this currency.

“We cannot inherit this currency, and we cannot produce it through speculation; we can only develop it through sustained effort and investment in people.”

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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