Who Teaches Best?

Finland’s strong policy, teaching and socio-economic environments propel it to top of 50 economies in the second edition of the Worldwide Educating for the Future Index (WEFFI), produced by The Economist Intelligence Unit and commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation .

●   Switzerland and New Zealand follow closely behind, the latter having taken the top spot in 2017’s inaugural ranking 

●   Ghana leads among low-income economies, based on the strength of its strategy to teach future skills and supportive assessment frameworks 

●   The UK ranks tenth, down four spots from its 2017 ranking, hurt by low scores on quality of teacher education and government expenditure on education 

Future-focused approaches to education must move beyond rigid, exam-based methods and encompass problem-based learning, innovative teaching methods and broader themes of global citizenship. Progress on transforming the world’s education systems to meet these goals is uneven, according to a new report released last week by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). 

Themed “Building tomorrow’s global citizens”, the white paper is commissioned by the Yidan Prize Foundation and based on the findings of the second annual Worldwide Educating for the Future Index. With a focus on young people aged 15-24 in 50 economies, it measures three pillars of education systems—policy approaches, teaching conditions and broader gauges of societal freedom and openness—as a means of readying young people to meet the challenges of work and society in future. It remains the only major ranking to assess inputs to education systems and stands in contrast to measures like the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, which looks at exam-like outputs. 

With comprehensive policies, well-trained teachers and strong assessment frameworks to test for future skills, small, wealthy, globally connected economies like Finland, Canada and Singapore comprise the top performers. But greater wealth is not a panacea: Ghana punches well above its weight when measured against GDP per head, ranking 25th overall, while Mexico, Colombia and the Philippines merit favorable mention for their work in policy areas, as does Costa Rica for its efforts to adapt teaching to the demands of tomorrow. On the other hand, Norway, despite ranking first in the socio-economic category, is dragged down by a poor performance on indicators such as assessment frameworks to support educating for future skills. The US also punches below its economic weight. 

Michael Gold, editor of the report said, “The second edition of the index shows that while education systems are starting to recognize the importance of holistic approaches to learning, many gaps still exist. Economies around the world must strengthen assessment frameworks, regularize reviews of curriculums and improve teaching conditions. Perhaps most importantly, the recent retrenchment away from globalization by many economies may threaten students’ abilities to develop an inquisitive mind-set and tackle the big problems of tomorrow.”