When countries across the globe entered into a period of economic recovery during 2010, it became increasingly clear that emerging nations were bouncing back far quicker than their more established Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) counterparts. For example, while the global recession of 2008 and 2009 left more than 15 million American citizens unemployed, nations such as China, Korea, and India found that they were experiencing rapid growth as their respective gross domestic products (GDP) soared, in addition to their educational systems.

Best Education Systems in the World

In 2020, the top three educational systems in the world were Finland, Denmark, and South Korea. This is based on developmental levels including early childhood enrollment, test scores in math, reading, and science in primary and secondary levels, completion rates, high school and college graduation, and adult literacy rates.


Finland has one of the most advanced and progressive education systems in the world, which outperforms the United States in reading, science, and mathematics. To some, Finland's education system is a dream: early education is designed around learning through play, school meals are free, and universities are tuition-free for students coming from EU, European Economic Area (EEA) countries, and Switzerland. A majority of teachers also have a master's degree; in fact, basic education teachers are required to have them.


Dating all the way back to the Middle Ages, Denmark has been improving its education system since then. While education used to revolve around learning Latin, Greek, and philosophy (even today, literacy rates are high at approximately 99%), the education system today is well-rounded. The government invests heavily in education, approximately 8% of its budget, and education is free for students until they turn 15 or 16 years old.

South Korea

Education in South Korea is highly-valued: in fact, secondary school completion rates are 100%. The public system is divided into six years of primary school, three years of secondary school, and then three years of either academic or vocational school. In secondary school, students even have an “exam-free semester" which allows students time each day to take a course of their choice that isn't included in their regular curriculum. Students in South Korea take education seriously: many also are involved in supplemental tutoring and after-school programs called "hagwons."

The Bottom Line

The link between countries with outstanding educational systems and strong financial service sectors is becoming increasingly prominent, and the speed with which nations recovered from the effects of the global recession also showcased extraordinary robustness. It is interesting to note that each nation is extremely federated, flexible, and far removed from the centralized model favored historically by developed nations.

The global educational rankings also revealed that students in the top educational countries have showcased an exceptional and consistent understanding of core mathematic principles. This outstanding level of numeracy forms the foundation of any financial sector job or service. When it is coupled with evolved higher education programs and diverse vocational courses, it can lead to success in job functions such as finance, private banking, and the loan industry. This is certainly something from which nations like the U.S. and the U.K. can learn as they seek to establish long-term economic growth and stability.