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Strongest Education Systems
Over the last few years, major changes have occurred in the world ranking of nations’ education systems. Five countries that claim the strongest education systems have successfully implemented methods that may help countries with high poverty rates and weak education systems.

In descending order, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Finland claimed the top five rankings for strongest education systems in 2015. Four of the top five are Asian countries or territories.

According to MBC Times, these countries outperform others because they value engagement and accountability culturally and their education systems emphasize effort over “inherent smartness.”

Each of the top five initiated unique tactics that have increased the quality and accessibility of education:

  1. South Korea
    South Korea emerged as the number one ranked education system in 2015. With a yearly budget of just over $11 billion, South Korea spends more money on education than many countries.
    Children attend school seven days a week and are expected to work very hard from a young age. As a result, South Korea has made impressive strides in literacy rates. According to Fair Reporters, nearly 100% of the population — 99.2% of males and 96.6% of females — is literate.
  2. Japan
    Japan experienced great success in recent years by incorporating technology into its education system, providing its students with tremendous resources. In addition to demanding hard work from students, Japanese educators value extracurricular activities highly. According to Fair Reporter, students in Japan are generally expected to participate in extracurricular activities.
  3. Singapore
    Impressively, Singapore ranks third with a school system that the Singaporean government made up from scratch. Singapore’s school system values deeper education through conceptual learning over traditional schooling methods, which often encourage simple memorization and repetition. Singaporean educators focus on training students to be problem solvers and thorough thinkers.
  4. Hong Kong
    With a 94.6% literacy rate, Hong Kong has an education system similar to the United Kingdom’s. The Social Welfare Department oversees education, ensuring that each level of schooling works together to produce a fluid education experience. According to the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong has more top-200-rated universities than any other Asian country or territory.
  5. Finland
    Finland, who lead in the ranking for years, has dropped below Asian countries since 2012 but is still notable for its holistic, free education system. The Finnish education system values education outside of the classroom; school days are kept short and followed by school-sponsored educational activities. Finland’s teachers are some of the finest, most educated in the world.

Although major educational improvements have been made worldwide, many poor countries still have weak education systems that need systematic reform. Education systems like those of South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Finland are guiding the way forward.

Their methods, such as incorporating out-of-classroom education, requiring extracurricular activities, increasing education budgets, valuing conceptual learning, using technology and hiring well-educated teachers, could contribute to educational growth in poor countries worldwide.

Alex Fidler

Photo: Flickr

Education in Finland: A Model For Equality
Education in Finland is prestigious and public. After 40 years of education reform to propel the economy, Finland has created some of the finest students in the world. In 2000, they led in reading, in 2003, in math and in 2006, in science. Since 2009, they consistently rank at the top for each subject in the Programme for International Student Assessment.

Not only does education in Finland produce top tier students, but the country has also created an education system that works for everyone. About 93 percent of Finns graduate from high school, 17.5 percentage points higher than the US, and 66 percent go to college, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet, Finland spends 30 percent less on education than the US.

Even with their amazing achievements in education, however, Finland has not yet found a popular following in implementing similar policies within other countries. In Finland, there is only one standardized test, unlike the U.S. and many Asian countries, where standardized tests are taken every year to measure students. Science classes are capped at 16. In the U.S., however, poorer public school systems pack many students into underfunded science classes. Teachers are also required to have master’s degrees, which are fully subsidized by the government, while the U.S. expects a bachelor’s degree without providing subsidies.

Although Finland may strive for excellence in education, they primarily value equality, a value missing in many American and Asian education systems. Whereas gifted students are separated into higher level classes in the U.S., Finland keeps all students in the same classrooms, providing extra help to those who need it. There are no private schools in Finland as all schools are 100 percent publicly funded. Each student has equal access to free school meals, health care, psychological counseling and individual student guidance, regardless of socioeconomic background.

As opposed to the U.S., where a good education generally means sending your kids to private or charter schools if you can afford it, Finland provides an equal education for everyone. Rather than creating a market for certain individuals to buy the best quality education, Finland created the base of its education system to help everyone. As opposed to Asian cultures that stress constant studying and competition between students, Finland prioritizes the students’ learning desires and fostering cooperation. There are no rankings for best schools or students.

Among other factors, Finland also selectively chooses its teachers; there is a 7 percent acceptance rate in Helsinki, which encourages constant retraining for teachers, creates broad curriculum guidelines and focuses more on quality time in the classroom. Education in Finland is clearly more relaxed and equitable, yet they still consistently boast the best scores. Although expensive private schools and exhaustive studying may produce similar results, they are not the most efficient strategies for a both equitable and robust education system.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr