New global education index shows Asian superpowers excel in learning


“Culture of accountability” among teachers, students and parents drives success 
The Learning Curve 2014 report, published by Pearson, explores factors behind global performance shifts in global education league tables

“Appreciates India’s Saakshar Bharat Mission that seeks to help 70 million people to become literate by 2017”

Pearson, the world’s leading learning company, published a new Learning Curve Index, ranking the educational performance of 39 countries.

The Learning Curve 2014 report, published by Pearson, explores factors behind global performance shifts in global education league tables and the importance of 21st Century skills.The new Global Index
of Cognitive Skills and Attainment, compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, finds that:

  •  South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong claim top spots in overall education ranking due to a ‘culture of accountability’ in which teachers, students and parents all take responsibility for education, and society values teachers and schools far more highly than in many other parts of the world.
  •  Finland drops to 5th from 1st position mainly because of decreases in its reported maths and science literacy.
  • UK holds steady at 6th position due to improvement in its PISA, TIMMS and PIRLS test scores and a rise in its tertiary graduation rate. Canada and the Netherlands are also in the top ten.
  •  Many emerging economies are putting increased funding into education – but this is not yet improving outcomes. Three of the world’s biggest emerging economies Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia are ranked at the bottom of the Index.

The accompanying Learning Curve report, on the theme of skills, finds that:

  • All adults lose skills as they age, but they decline far more rapidly when not used regularly at work.
  •  Skills only improve at a national level when governments, employers, schools, students and parents all prioritise them.

Alongside the new Index, Pearson has also published a new open Data Bank of 2,500 educational, economic and social indicators relating to a total of 50 countries, which is available at :

The Data Bank draws on the three most respected global education studies – PISA, TIMMS, PIRLS – and combines them with national statistics on education, GDP, employment, crime rates, and other factors to create a comprehensive set of information for researchers and policy makers to draw on.

Deepak Mehrotra, Managing Director, Pearson India shared: Learning Curve is an ambitious effort to gather a wide range of information on education inputs and outputs over an extended period of time. Through the report series, Pearson aims to globally create the most comprehensive source of education data and evidence, making it open and searchable for educators and thought leaders.

The research insights provide valuable inputs for the education sectors across the globe to compare, measure and use. This can help improve country level educational systems. Pearson encourages teachers, parents, governments and academicians – in fact anyone interested in education – to rely on data and evidence when making decisions.

As the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test results by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) do not exist for India and China at a national level we don’t see much data on our country, but the global data on learning outcomes definitely helps to positively influence Indian education policy at local, regional and national levels.

John Fallon, Chief Executive of Pearson commented: “One of the most pervasive and endemic problems in education in just about every country is the lack of attention paid to skills provision. In rich countries and emerging economies, the demand for better skills is urgent – as governments strive to create rewarding jobs for their citizens. “The Learning Curve brings together a growing body of evidence on what works in education. We hope it is a small but important contribution to improving learning outcomes on a global basis. As educational debates shift from a focus on inputs to learning outcomes, we hope what we have
discovered will drive others to take up the baton and do more work in this field.”

The importance of expanding and maintaining adult skills

Alongside the Index, Pearson has also published an in-depth report on the importance of skills in improving educational and economic outcomes. The report concludes that:

  • The OECD estimates that half of the economic growth in developed countries in the last decade came from improved skills, highlighting the importance of driving skills to help grow a country’s economy.
  • It’s difficult to determine the impact of adult education on individuals, as they are mostly already highly educated and skilled.
  • South Korea outperforms all other countries in PISA, TIMMS and PIRLS, however, after age 20, their skills test on par or below average according to PIAAC results.
  • While Scandinavian countries fall behind Asia in the education rankings, they score highly in adult skill retention through encouraging adults to continuously develop their skills and providing the infrastructure for this.
  • Basic 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.
  • Emphasizing on the need of skill inculcation among adults, Professor Schleicher, (Deputy Director, Directorate for Education, OECD) has given the example of India’s literacy efforts in the index. India’s Saakshar Bharat Mission, world’s largest adult education programme, is a perfect example of large scale skills inculcation among adults to motivate learners.

The Learning Curve report has cited India’s Saakshar Bharat Mission in the index. Launched in 2009, the largest adult education programme in the world is a centrally sponsored scheme of Department of School Education and Literacy (DSEL), Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India (GOI). The scheme, which has successfully contributed to the literacy of 25 million people, seeks to help 70 million people to become literate by 2017. It focuses in particular on those who in the past have been marginalised in Indian education, including women (the target is for 60 million female neo- literates), the rural poor, and the country’s worst off tribes and castes. The mission has changed the shape of lifelong learning in India.

Better education means better economic growth

The Learning Curve demonstrates that education correlates with economic growth: the average time spent in school has been statistically linked to nations’ labour productivity for the last two decades. Developing countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia rank lowest in PISA, which poses the question of whether these nations can support sustained rates of economic growth long term.

Effective education requires accountability and great teaching

New technologies require both teachers and students to acquire a broader range of skills, opening up the possibility for new teaching techniques. Countries and their governments must place importance on the role of teachers and treat the profession with respect. However, success comes when the student is held accountable to do well and the teacher can work flexibly, highlighting the importance of self-sufficiency. Teachers cannot teach effectively when the curriculum is tightly controlled. Moreover, it’s evident that parental expectations impact on the students’ performance and motivation too.

To read the full report please visit:

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