Singapore has topped OECD’s latest education rankings as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s global school rankings show the five top countries are in all in Asia while the bottom is populated mostly by African countries.
OECD Education Director Andreas Schleicher says the report looked deeply into student outcomes in seventy-six countries:
“This is the first time we have a truly global scale of the quality of education.”
Schleicher explains that the goal of the rankings is to offer more countries, irrespective of economic status, the ability to assess their strengths and weaknesses and realize that quality education has long-term and substantial economic gains.
Singapore tops the rankings followed by Hong Kong and South Korea in second and third places respectively. Japan’s and Taiwan’s students tied in fourth place, making the top five ranking countries exclusively Asia-based.
Andreas Schleicher attributes the success of Asian students in science and math to the rigor, focus and coherence that permeate the Asian classroom and partly to the fact that Asian teachers have high expectations of their students. He adds:
“These countries are also very good at attracting the most talented teachers in the most challenging classrooms, so that every student has access to excellent teachers.”
Switzerland is ranked 8th, Canada 10th, the UK 20th and the US 28th. Sweden experienced a steep fall and ranked just 35th while Ghana came in last.
The rankings are seen by some educators as unnecessary and even harmful. Sir Anthony Seldon says ranking tables do more harm than good:
“They are skewing schools and national education systems away from real learning towards repetitive rote learning,” the head teacher at the Wellington College in Berkshire says.
OECD analyzed test scores in science and math of fifteen-year old students in a total of seventy-six countries, which provided a more complete picture than the OECD PISA that mostly focuses on already-wealthy, already-progressing countries. The OECD report highlights that:
“Poor education policies and practices leave many countries in what amounts to a permanent state of economic recession.”
The report also reveals staggering increases in the economic welfare of countries should all 15-year-old students manage to achieve a basic level of education and avoid dropping out. Ghana would experience a 3,881% GDP increase, followed by 2,624% in South Africa and a 2,016% GDP increase in Honduras.
The OECD report authors emphasize that a thriving nation doesn’t depend on extending its education’s schooling years, but in making sure students get a solid foundation in key subject matters. Students must also develop the essential skills of creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.
Schleicher explained the significance of education for a country’s prosperity:
“Ensuring that every student in the industrialised world obtains very basic skills would generate more wealth than the total amount we currently spend on education.”
The report will be presented at the World Education Forum taking place in South Korea.