Global education countries

Where in the world are students most likely to enhance their career prospects with a good education? Our mortgage experts analysed academic performance, government funding, and enrolment rates to find out.
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Education is, of course, of paramount importance, not just for ensuring that children get the best possible chance to succeed in life, but also for their personal growth and development.

There are a number of factors that can tell us how good an environment is for nurturing children’s education, but where are the best places in the world when it comes to encouraging learning?

Are you thinking about moving to a new country to study? Compare mortgages to find the right deal for you. 

To find out, our mortgage experts have analysed countries around the globe on factors such as academic performance, government funding, and enrolment rates.

The countries with the best education

Top cities for education

1. Singapore

Taking all of the factors into account, Singapore ranks as the best nation for education, with an overall score of 9.10 out of 10. Singapore has a near-perfect record when it comes to school enrollment and the number of children out of school, at both primary and secondary levels, and is also the country with the highest level of people educated to tertiary (university) level, at 29.7%, as well as when it comes to academic performance.

2. Iceland

The highest-ranked European nation is Iceland, scoring highly both for enrolment (100% at primary level and 91% for secondary) and government spending on education, which stands at 7.6% of the country’s GDP, second only to Denmark. Education in Iceland is compulsory for those between 6 and 16, with homeschooling not allowed, and most institutions being free to attend.

3. Canada

Taking third place is Canada, with an impressive record of nearly 100% enrollment in both primary and secondary school, meaning there are almost 0% of children out of education at both levels. 

Education in Canada is, for the most part, provided publicly and is compulsory across the country, all the way up to the age of 18 in some provinces and territories. The academic performance of students in Canada is also amongst the highest in the world in terms of PISA scores. PISA is the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment, which measures 15-year-olds’ proficiency in reading, mathematics and science, giving them a comparable score. 

The best countries for…

Top primary school countries

Primary enrollment: (100%)

  • Canada

  • Iceland

  • Malaysia

  • Malta

  • Norway

  • Singapore

While all levels of education are of course important, it’s at primary school where children develop the building blocks of their learning that sets them up for the rest of their lives. Six different countries had a primary enrollment rate of practically 100%, Canada, Singapore, Norway, Malta, Iceland, and Malaysia.

top secondary school enrollment

Secondary enrollment: (100%)

  • Canada

  • Singapore

  • Kazakhstan

As well as having a perfect enrollment rate at primary level, Canada and Singapore also have a near-perfect enrolment rate at secondary school too, as does Kazakhstan. Secondary school of course covers the adolescent period of pupils’ lives, which marks the start of passage into adulthood and sees students undergo several significant milestones.

primary age children out of school statistics

Primary age children out of school: (0%)

  • Algeria

  • Argentina

  • Austria

  • Canada

  • Chile

  • Costa Rica

  • France

  • Iceland

  • Ireland

  • Israel

  • Lithuania

  • Malta

  • Mauritius

  • Netherlands

  • New Zealand

  • Norway

  • Portugal

  • Singapore

  • Slovenia

  • Sweden

  • Switzerland

  • United Arab Emirates

  • Vietnam

Ensuring that every child has the opportunity to go to school is a basic right, although in many countries there are children who don’t attend school. However, in total, 23 of the countries in the research can say that just under 100% of their children are in education at primary level, including the likes of Canada, New Zealand, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and more.

lower secondary children out of school

Lower secondary age adolescents out of school: (0%)

  • Belgium

  • Canada

  • Czech Republic

  • Denmark

  • Finland

  • France

  • Iceland

  • Israel

  • Kazakhstan

  • Lithuania

  • New Zealand

  • Norway

  • Portugal

  • Singapore

  • Slovakia

  • Spain

  • Sweden

  • United Kingdom

  • United States

Fewer countries could claim a perfect rate of pupils out of school when it comes to lower secondary education, with 19 having negligible numbers of adolescents out of school. Unlike when it came to primary education, the UK and US were among those countries with no students missing out.

government expenditure on education

Government expenditure on education: (7.8% of GDP)

  • Denmark

The commitment from the government to education is a big part of investing in the country’s future, and the nation that has the greatest spend in this regard is Denmark, spending 7.8% of its GDP.

population with tertiary schooling

Population age 15+ with tertiary schooling: (29.7%)

  • Singapore

While compulsory education usually ends around age 16 to 18, many choose to continue on to tertiary (also known as higher) education, at university or similar institutions. The country with the highest percentage of people educated to this level is Singapore, at 29.7%, with the country’s education system earning praise from around the world.

average QS university ranking score

Average QS World University Rankings score: (92.4)

  • Singapore

Looking at which countries have the highest average score on the QS World University Rankings, it’s the small state of Singapore that comes first. Singapore has six universities in total, but the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University are among the 20 best in the world, with an average score out of 100 of 92.4 on the rankings.

PISA scores

Mean PISA scores: (549 for reading, 569 for mathematics, 551 for science)

  • Singapore

PISA is the Programme for International Student Assessment and is a worldwide study that takes place every three years and ranks more than 60 countries based on reading, maths and science tests undertaken by over half a million 15-year-old students, with Singapore topping the class in each subject. Teaching in Singapore takes a much more narrow but thorough approach, as teachers ensure that their students have a deep understanding of the syllabus before moving on.

Methodology & sources