In Focus
HR & EDUCATION | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong
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Hong Kong educational system world’s 3rd best

Ranks behind Finland and South Korea in cognitive skills.

The Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment ranks Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore as the world’s top five countries in educational attainment and cognitive skills. The United States is 17th on the list.

The survey was carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit for Pearson PLC, the largest education company and the largest book publisher in the world. Pearson is based in London and owns the Financial Times and the Penguin Group.

The index compared 40 countries and regions on international test results, including the Programme for International Student Assessment and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, and education attainments such as literacy and graduation rates.

Finland topped the list with a 1.26 "Z-score" or the weighted sum of cognitive skills and education attainments. South Korea had 1.23 and Hong Kong scored 0.90.

The leading countries in the cognitive skills category, which comprises the international tests (PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS) in math, reading and science that students take at Grade 8 and Grade 4, were Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. All scored significantly higher than the average.

The educational attainment category based on literacy and graduation rates, however, saw the leaders as South Korea, the United Kingdom, Finland, Poland and Ireland.

Looking at education systems that succeed, the report concluded that the level of support for education within the surrounding culture, and not spending alone, could make a big difference. Pearson also said good teachers are essential, but higher pay does not mean better performances.

Hong Kong Education Policy Concern Organisation chairman Mervyn Cheung Man-ping said insufficient input in education will affect the quality to a certain extent, with countries such as the United States cutting scholarships and fellowships.

"But Hong Kong maintains around 20 percent of expenditure in education every year, helping sustain its competitiveness when attracting elites to further study here," he noted.

Hong Kong also holds an edge with its East-meets-West education system and being at the doorstep of the mainland, he said.

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