New Zealand and Canada have been singled out as the countries that best prepare students for the future, in a major study that assesses the “effectiveness” of education systems.
The Worldwide Educating for the Future Index, produced by the Economist Intelligence Unit for the Yidan Prize Foundation, evaluates education systems in 35 economies across 16 indicators, which cover the education policy environment, teaching environment and socio-economic environment.
The report, which covers education between ages 15 and 24, concentrates on “inputs” such as government expenditure on post-secondary education, the quality of teacher education, cultural diversity and tolerance, as opposed to “outputs” such as test scores, in order to judge how students are being readied to master “interpersonal, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, and navigate an increasingly digital and automated world”.
When all three environments are considered, small and rich countries generally come out top; the five highest ranked are New Zealand, Canada, Finland, Switzerland and Singapore. The UK is sixth overall, while the US is 12th.
New Zealand also comes top in the teaching environment category, which accounts for 50 per cent of the overall score.
The Antipodean nation earned full marks for its curriculum framework for future skills, the effectiveness of its policy implementation system, teacher education, government education expenditure, career counselling in schools, collaboration between universities and industry, and cultural diversity and tolerance, according to the report.
“The reasons behind this success are twofold. Firstly, New Zealand views educating for future skills as a broadly-agreed strategic imperative: it is a small and remote country, with the vigilance that comes with knowing that it has little choice but to be globally competitive,” according to the study.
“Secondly, it has a systematic government-led approach to making its education system fit for purpose, across technology, teaching, curriculum and collaboration with industry.”
Singapore comes top when countries are assessed only on their education policy environment, while Finland takes first place for socio-economic environment.
But, more than half of the economies in the index are failing to invest in or effectively assess skills needed for the future, it is claimed.
The study highlights Taiwan, which comes 19th overall despite its reputation for strong teaching in STEM disciplines, and the “start-up nation” Israel, which is 26th, as “prominent disappointments”.
The two countries supplying the largest pool of workers in the world, India and China, are also below average (at 29th and 31st respectively).
In contrast, Argentina, which is 20th in the ranking, is singled out as a country that is punching above its weight.
The Latin American country is the highest-ranked middle-income nation in the table, and is showing signs of progress in areas such as quality of teacher education and qualifications, education expenditure, and curriculum and assessment frameworks, according to the research.
The study also found that there is a strong correlation between societies that are open and those that prepare their young people effectively for an uncertain future.
Worldwide Educating for the Future Index: top 10
Note: scores are out of 100