If you’re thinking about a change of scenery or moving abroad for work, you may be concerned about how this could affect your child’s education. Worry no more! With many international schools available in popular British expat destinations there is no reason why your child’s education need be affected by a move abroad – in fact it could well be beneficial.

While the UK has an excellent education system – both state-funded and private schools – you’ll be pleased to know that most countries offer a comparable level of schooling, with many rated as offering levels exceeding the UK.

So, if you are considering a move abroad, below are some details for the highest rated countries for education. The below list is ranked in no particular order, and includes statistics for Literacy, Maths and Science as ranked by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), as well as average spend per student and literacy rate.

With so much variation in culture and learning styles, the following article will also provide a brief overview of the culture and attitudes towards education so you can determine how it could fit with your child.


Japan is one of the best performers for Maths, literacy and Science amongst the OECD group of countries, which measures how well students perform at core subjects compared against another. Children go through up to 12 years of education, of which 9 are compulsory with a further 3 years if students wish to progress onto university. Although the last 3 years are optional almost 98% of students enrol.

Japan’s hard work ethic and state of the art technology help support the countries’ education system. The Japanese education system makes use of modern technology which makes for easier, more interactive learning. Furthermore, pupils in Japan are strongly encouraged to take part in extra-curricular activities with sports and chess both popular choices.

You can be almost certain that your children’s education won’t suffer from a move to Japan, the literacy rate for both males and females above the age of 15 sits at 99% according to UNESCO.

  • OECD ranking 2015 - 4th
  • GDP budget for education – 3.5%
  • Spend per student - $23,918
  • Literacy rate – 99%


Finland regularly tops the global rankings for education and all students sit the same lessons irrespective of ability. You may think that a country that scores so highly provides their students with hours of homework, in fact, students in Finland are provided less homework than average and only have to sit one mandatory exam at 16. The Finnish education system prides itself on fairness and equality, giving students the scope to learn at their own pace without the need for routine exams. Most impressive of all, Finland is ranked as one of the best in the World for its literacy rate – 99.8%!

  • OECD ranking 2015 - 6th
  • GDP budget for education – 5.9%
  • Spend per student - $20,863
  • Literacy rate – 99.8%


Only 5% of students attend private school in Switzerland, and it provides one of the most culturally diverse educational systems in the World. There are 26 cantons (regions) in Switzerland, and each one offers a slightly different system. An OECD report ranked Switzerland 8th out of 65 countries for Maths and Science, and prides itself in offering education for all, irrespective of learning potential or disabilities. Diversity springs to mind when it comes to Switzerland, with French, German and Italian amongst some of the common languages spoken. Children can attend Primary School from the age of 6 in most cantons. Secondary school begins at 12 and like the German system, students will have a choice of schools depending on their academic ability. While education is free in Switzerland it’s subsidised heavily by the tax system, which makes it one of the most expensive places in the World to live.

  • OECD ranking 2015 - 8th
  • GDP budget for education – 5.9%
  • Spend per student - $24,518
  • Literacy rate – 99%


The Dutch people have been voted some of the happiest people on earth, and it’s not difficult to see why. In fact, Dutch children were voted the number 1 happiest in the World in a Unicef study in 2013. Their educational system is second to none, offering little homework until secondary School, with pupils reporting little to no school related pressure.

Their laid-back approach differs greatly from that of some Asian school systems, and despite this their literacy rate amongst males and females sits above 99%.

  • OECD ranking 2015 - 9th
  • GDP budget for education – 5.9%
  • Spend per student - $17,635
  • Literacy rate – 99%


The Danish schooling system will come as a shock to some expats. For one, the educational system is free all the way up to University level, and in some cases students are offered financial aid to help them through.

Denmark has recently been voted the happiest place on Earth, living on the principal of ‘togetherness’, their welfare system is one of the best in the World providing exceptional care to those who need it.

Denmark has an outstanding educational system, and there laid back and caring approach will likely benefit all that make the move there.

  • OECD ranking 2015 – 22nd
  • GDP budget for education – 5.9%
  • Spend per student - $21,844
  • Literacy rate – 99%


Singapore is ranked continuously in the top countries for education, ranking number 1 on the PISA tests for Science, literacy and Maths. There is no doubt that education in Singapore is one of the best in the World, but it does have a reputation for putting pressure on students from a young age.

  • OECD ranking 2015 – 1st
  • GDP budget for education – 3%
  • Spend per student - $10,962
  • Literacy rate – 96.8%

South Korea

South Korea may be an interesting choice for relocation, but there is no doubt that its education is up there with Singapore and other Asian countries. Regularly scoring highly on the Pisa tests, the labour force in South Korea is one of the most educated in the World amongst OECD countries.

Like Singapore, South Korea puts a lot of pressure on students to perform well which may not suit every child, so bear this in mind if you are planning to relocate there.

  • OECD ranking 2015 – 3rd
  • GDP budget for education – 7.6%
  • Spend per student - $7,652
  • Literacy rate – 96.6%


Canada scored number 2 in the Pisa tests for Science and Literacy in 2015, with government spending for education increasing 67% since 2000. Canada also has one of the highest rate of educated people in the world, with almost 90% of their citizens educated at high school level or above.

The school system is similar to that of the UK. Students can drop out at 16, although this is normally discouraged, with most students finishing Senior school at the age of 18.

  • OECD ranking 2015 – 10th
  • GDP budget for education – 5.6%
  • Spend per student - $11,835
  • Literacy rate – 97%


Moving quickly up the ranks, Estonia has been called the new Norway scoring highly again in the Pisa tests for maths, science and literacy. In addition to beating Germany and France in the rankings, Estonia has the lowest percentage of weak performers in Europe.

It’s common in Estonia to have the same teacher for 3 years, which has helped students to build strong relationships with their teachers. Best of all, education in Estonia is free up to college level, with huge emphasis on equality irrespective of background.

  • OECD ranking 2015 – 7th
  • GDP budget for education – 4.8%
  • Spend per student - $6,149
  • Literacy rate – 99.8%


The Germany education system differs somewhat from the Anglo and North American framework. From 3-years old children can attend kindergarten before proceeding on to Grundschule (Primary School).

Secondary school is very where things differ in Germany, with a choice of different types depending on your child’s ability and career focus. The Gymnasium for example, is designed for the very academic students and often prepares students for tertiary education. It is also compulsory for students to learn two foreign languages. There are also options for advanced courses that students can take which are optional.

Realschule works as an intermediary school and although is considered less academic than the Gymnasium, it still offers a high academic standard. Students will engage in a combination of different subjects including one compulsory language. Realschule prepares students for vocational qualifications or an apprenticeship, with the option to transfer to a Gymnasium to continue studies on to university.

For the less academic students, Hauptschule is an option for those seeking a route into a trade through an apprenticeship scheme (Lehre). There are 5 compulsory years (5-9), with the option to extend to a 10th year. Students who show academic skills can be transferred to a Gymnasium to complete their studies for university. Haupschule is similar to Realshule with subjects taught at a slower pace.

In any event, there are a number of different school types in Germany that are bound to reflect your child’s ability providing opportunities to progress in a particular field irrespective of academic ability.

  • OECD ranking 2015 – 13th
  • GDP budget for education – 4.94%
  • Spend per student - $10,062
  • Literacy rate – 99%


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