Singapore takes third spot in global education rankings

Singapore's education system has won another accolade - this time in a cognitive skills and educational attainment index comparing 39 countries and one region, Hong Kong.

The school system here has been ranked third after South Korea and Japan, and one place above Hong Kong in the index, according to The Learning Curve report published by education firm Pearson.

The last study two years ago placed Singapore fifth behind Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan.

The global study, carried out by the forecasting service Economist Intelligence Unit, draws on existing data from international organisations, as well as figures on literacy rates, school attendance, and university graduation rates.

Britain held steady in the sixth position as a result of improvement in its international tests scores and a rise in its tertiary graduation rate.

Canada and the Netherlands are also in the top 10.

Three of the world's biggest emerging economies - Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia - are at the bottom of the list.

The study concluded that successful education systems are partly due to a "culture of accountability" in which teachers, students and parents all take responsibility for education.

It also noted that in these countries, teachers are highly valued.

Countries and their governments must place importance on the role of teachers, and treat the profession with respect, the study noted.

Other conclusions from the report include the fact that education correlates with economic growth: The average time spent in school has been statistically linked to a country's labour productivity for the last two decades. Said Pearson's chief education adviser Michael Barber: "The rise of Pacific Asian countries like Singapore, which combine effective education systems with a culture that prizes effort above inherited "smartness", is a phenomenon that other countries can no longer ignore."

Calling Singapore an "educational superstar", he told The Straits Times that Singapore's success comes down to a combination of factors.

"These include an exceptionally high regard for the teaching profession, a 'culture of accountability' that holds parents and students equally autonomous and accountable for their own success, as well as strategic thinking with effective implementation.

"Combined, this is a force to be reckoned with in education."

Alongside the index, Pearson has also published an in-depth report on the importance of skills in improving educational and economic outcomes.

The report states that skills gained in early education are essential to continued skill development, and that continued use of skills in adulthood is crucial in slowing the inevitable decline over time.

Pearson has published a new open databank of more than 2,500 educational, economic and social indicators relating to 50 countries, for researchers and policymakers to draw on.

This information is available on website.

This article was published on May 8 in The Straits Times.

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