The Most Educated Countries in the World

Print Email

10. Ireland
> Pct. population with tertiary education: 37%
> Average annual growth rate (2000-2010): 7.3% (the highest)
> GDP per capita: $40,478 (7th highest)

From 2000 through 2010, the percentage of people with a college education or more in Ireland nearly doubled, rising at an annual average of 7.3% — faster than any country in the study. High school graduation rates also rose during that time, from 74% to 94%. Education has become especially critical for male job seekers in Ireland’s workforce, as 6.3% of men with a tertiary education were unemployed in 2010 versus 15.2% for all men nationwide.

9. Australia
> Pct. population with tertiary education: 38%
> Average annual growth rate (2000-2010): 3.2% (12th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $40,790 (6th highest)

Australia is a preferred destination for many international students, which is why it should come as no surprise that they accounted for 21.2% of the country’s tertiary students in 2010, higher than every country other than Luxembourg. Finding a job in the country is not especially hard for those with a college degree. The country had an unemployment rate of just 2.8% in 2010 for workers with a tertiary degree, compared to a rate of just 5.2% for all workers.

Also Read: America’s Richest States

8. Finland
> Pct. population with tertiary education: 38%
> Average annual growth rate (2000-2010): 1.8% (4th lowest)
> GDP per capita: $36,307 (14th highest)

Finland spent 6.4% of its gross domestic product on education in 2009, with 97.6% of these funds coming from public sources, more than any country in the report. Between 2000 and 2010, high school graduation rates rose by just two percentage points, while the number of people with a college education or more rose by just six percentage points. As a result, Finland fell from fourth to eighth place among the world’s most educated countries. Finnish workers with a tertiary education were far more likely to be employed than those without such an education — the unemployment rate was 4.4% for residents with a degree and 8.4% for those without.

7. United Kingdom
> Pct. population with tertiary education: 38%
> Average annual growth rate: 4.0% (10th highest)
> GDP per capita: $35,756 (15th highest)

Between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of U.K. residents with a tertiary education rose 12 percentage points. The country’s universities are also popular among students from other nations. International students make up 16% of enrollment. The country recently has had a shift in how education is financed. While in 2000 the percentage of funds from private sources was 14.8%, it rose to 31.1% by 2009. Students also must cover more of the cost of higher education than in the past, as the cap on tuition fees was raised from 3,290 pounds to 9,000 pounds for the 2012-2013 year.

6. South Korea
> Pct. population with tertiary education: 40%
> Average annual growth rate (2000-2010): 5.2% (6th highest)
> GDP per capita: $28,797 (16th lowest)

Between 2000 and 2010, the percentage of South Koreans with a college education or more rose from 24% to 40%. In addition to being well-educated, many residents also invested considerable amounts towards their schooling. In 2009, only Iceland spent more than South Korea’s 8% of GDP. That year, no country in the study contributed more private funds for education at all levels than South Korea, at 3.1% of GDP, or for tertiary education, at 1.9%. Despite the investment, education does not appear to have a measurable impact on job seekers. The unemployment rate in 2010 for those with a tertiary degree was 3.3% — low relative to the OECD average of 4.7%, but not much lower than the 3.7% rate for all workers in the country.