Education Rankings By Country 2021

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"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." — Nelson Mandela

While education levels vary from country to country, there is a clear correlation between the quality of a country's educational system and its general economic status and overall well-being. In general, developing nations tend to offer their citizens a higher quality of education than the least developed nations do, and fully developed nations offer the best quality of education of all. Education is clearly a vital contributor to any country's overall health.

According to the Global Partnership for Education, education is considered to be a human right and plays a crucial role in human, social, and economic development. Education promotes gender equality, fosters peace, and increases a person's chances of having more and better life and career opportunities.

The annual Best Countries Report, conducted by US News and World Report, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, reserves an entire section for education. The report surveys thousands of people across 78 countries, then ranks those countries based upon the survey's responses. The education portion of the survey compiles scores from three equally-weighted attributes: a well-developed public education system, would consider attending university there, and provides top-quality education. As of 2021, the top ten countries based on education rankings are:

Countries with the Best Educational Systems - 2021 Best Countries Report*

  1. The United States

  2. The United Kingdom

  3. Germany

  4. Canada

  5. France

  6. Switzerland

  7. Japan

  8. Australia

  9. Sweden

  10. The Netherlands

    *For the full list of countries' educational systems ranked from best to worst, scroll down.

Ironically, despite the United States having the best-surveyed education system on the globe, U.S students consistently score lower in math and science than students from many other countries. According to a Business Insider report in 2018, the U.S. ranked 38th in math scores and 24th in science. Discussions about why the United States' education rankings have fallen by international standards over the past three decades frequently point out that government spending on education has failed to keep up with inflation.

It's also worthwhile to note that while the Best Countries study is certainly respectable, other studies use different methodologies or emphasize different criteria, which often leads to different results. For example, the Global Citizens for Human Rights' annual study measures ten levels of education from early childhood enrollment rates to adult literacy. Its final 2020 rankings look a bit different:

Countries with the Best Educational Systems - 2020 Global Citizens for Human Rights

  1. Denmark
  2. Finland
  3. Japan
  4. Canada
  5. Sweden
  6. Germany
  7. Israel
  8. Netherlands
  9. Singapore
  10. South Korea

Education Rates of Children Around the World

Most findings and ranking regarding education worldwide involve adult literacy rates and levels of education completed. However, some studies look at current students and their abilities in different subjects.

One of the most-reviewed studies regarding education around the world involved 470,000 fifteen-year-old students. Each student was administered tests in math, science, and reading similar to the SAT or ACT exams (standardized tests used for college admissions in the U.S.) These exam scores were later compiled to determine each country's average score for each of the three subjects. Based on this study, China received the highest scores, followed by Korea, Finland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands.

On the down side, there are many nations whose educational systems are considered inadequate. This could be due to internal conflict, economic problems, or underfunded programs. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's Education for All Global Monitoring Report ranks the following countries as having the world's worst educational systems:

Countries with the Lowest-Ranked Educational Systems (and their estimated adult literacy rates)

Education Rankings By Country 2021

Country Rank (2021) Rank (2020) 2021 Population
United States11332,915,073
United Kingdom2268,207,116
Germany3483,900,473
Canada4338,067,903
France5565,426,179
Switzerland668,715,494
Japan711126,050,804
Australia8725,788,215
Sweden9810,160,169
Netherlands10917,173,099
New Zealand11144,860,643
Denmark12105,813,298
Norway13125,465,630
Italy141660,367,477
Finland15155,548,360
Austria16139,043,070
Spain171846,745,216
Belgium1811,632,326
South Korea192251,305,186
Ireland204,982,907
Singapore21195,896,686
China22241,444,216,107
Russia2321145,912,025
Israel24258,789,774
Portugal252010,167,925
Poland262337,797,005
United Arab Emirates27289,991,089
Greece282610,370,744
Hungary309,634,164
Turkey313185,042,738
India32341,393,409,038
South Africa333260,041,994
Argentina342945,605,826
Saudi Arabia354635,340,683
Brazil3630213,993,437
Mexico3736130,262,216
Malaysia383932,776,194
Egypt3942104,258,327
Ukraine403843,466,819
Qatar41372,930,528
Lithuania42452,689,862
Croatia43334,081,651
Estonia44471,325,185
Slovakia45445,460,721
Thailand464869,950,850
Romania474019,127,774
Chile483519,212,361
Bulgaria49436,896,663
Latvia50501,866,942
Colombia514951,265,844
Belarus52519,442,862
Slovenia53412,078,724
Indonesia5455276,361,783
Philippines5552111,046,913
Uruguay563,485,151
Morocco575737,344,795
Jordan585310,269,021
Vietnam596498,168,833
Panama60564,381,579
Costa Rica61545,139,052
Oman62625,223,375
Serbia63588,697,550
Peru645933,359,418
Azerbaijan656110,223,342
Sri Lanka666721,497,310
Tunisia676311,935,766
Kenya686854,985,698
Dominican Republic696010,953,703
Lebanon70696,769,146
Kazakhstan717018,994,962
Uzbekistan7233,935,763
Ecuador736517,888,475
El Salvador746,518,499
Cambodia7516,946,438
Myanmar767154,806,012
Iraq7741,179,350
Guatemala787318,249,860

Education Rankings By Country 2021