Primary education provides children with the skills they need to progress through life. As every parent knows, some schools are better able to provide children with a solid foundation in maths, science and reading than others.
While comparisons between schools of the same country used to be sufficient, an increasingly globalised world means that comparisons between different countries’ educational systems are becoming more frequent.
Asian schools typically offer their primary school students the best education in mathematics, with Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan leading the world. In Europe, Northern Ireland is the top performing education system for maths, followed by Belgium, Finland, England and Russia.
In terms of maths, US academics say that England has shown one of the biggest improvements between 1996 and 2011. This may be attributed in part to institutions such as the IB School and its Primary Years programme.
Systems such as this succeed by instilling children with a positive attitude to learning and by emphasising their intellectual, physical, personal and social development.
Korea provides the world’s best system for teaching primary science, followed by Singapore, Finland Japan and Russia. The next five best are Taiwan, the US, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong and Hungary. England ranks as 15th – probably due to its wide ranging performance.
While inner city schools often struggle with low resources and therefore motivation, better funded institutions provide a reliably high standard of education. For those seeking an international school, London has a number of good options, such as the IC School.
The top five countries for reading are Hong Kong, Russia, Finland, Singapore and Northern Ireland. If the number of pupils reaching the highest levels of ability is taken into account, Northern Ireland ranks in third place.
The next five best primary education systems for reading are the US, Denmark, Croatia, Taiwan, and Ireland. England comes is ranked 11th.
For reading, maths and science, the world’s leading primary education providers are Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the west, the best overall systems are Finland and Russia.
In these countries, teachers are well-respected and viewed as valuable assets. But while individual countries’ governments should be praised for any long-term investment in education, this isn’t the whole story.
Success also depends on the availability of learning resources and support at home. For example, in Finland, the parents, the community, and the culture itself support reading. The combined affect is that students are genuinely interested in learning how to read.
Top ten countries with lowest primary education.
TIMMS and PIRLS 2011 achievement results in reading, mathematics and science.
International trends in primary school education.