Finland, Canada and South Korea rank highly for education

Published: 16th Sep 2016

In brief

Claim

Finland, South Korea and Canada, which all have the most comprehensive systems, have been repeatedly shown to have the best educated children in the world.

Conclusion

Finland, South Korea and Canada have done consistently well in tests that compare 15 year-olds internationally, although these tests aren’t a perfect guide to the relative performance of different education systems. We haven’t seen definitive evidence that the success of these systems is due to the fact they’re comprehensive.

“If you look at the countries that have the best educated children around the world, there are three countries that come up again and again and again… Finland, South Korea and Canada. And they have the most comprehensive systems.”

Alastair Campbell, 15 September 2016

Finland, South Korea and Canada have done consistently well in tests that compare 15-year olds in different countries.

We compared the last three rounds of rankings from 2006, 2009 and 2012. Finland, South Korea and Canada were consistently placed in the top 10 for Science and Reading globally, although Finland and Canada slipped to 12th and 13th for Maths in 2012.

They’re not the only countries that have done consistently well in these tests. Looking at 2009 and 2012, four other regions have scored consistently within the top ten in reading, five others in science and seven others in maths.

As we’ve discussed previously, these tests aren’t a perfect guide to the relative performance of different education systems.

Finland’s state schools are comprehensive and unstreamed until pupils are 16. Canada has mainly comprehensive schools to 18, since the majority of upper secondary schools offer vocational and academic streams. South Korea’s schools are comprehensive until pupils are 15, which is the end of compulsory education.

So far, we haven’t seen any definitive evidence that the success of these systems is due to the fact that their systems are largely comprehensive. We’ll be looking into this further.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


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