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What Countries Are the Most Educated?

Margaret has a bachelor's degree in International and European Studies. She has thoroughly studied global economy, history and development.

Find out what the most-educated countries in the world are.

Find out what the most-educated countries in the world are.

The 5 Most-Educated Countries

Has the question of which country has the most educated population ever crossed your mind? The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has been compiling the percentage of each country's population with tertiary education by age group. Tertiary education refers to the highest level of education, which follows the completion of a school and includes universities, colleges, and vocational courses. This article targets 25–34 year-olds. Let's take a look according to OECD'S latest data.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 36 member countries. It was founded in 1961 to stimulate economic progress and world trade. Since then, it has been collecting data on numerous fields such as education, environment, healthcare and many more.

Countries with the highest percentage of the population with tertiary education

CountryPercentage of population with tertiary education in 2017Percentage of Population with tertiary education in 2018
















5. Ireland

Ireland, the world's twentieth largest island, ranks pretty high in the list of the countries with the highest level of education among their young population, taking fifth place with 56,2%. Engineering and financial management are the jobs with the highest demand in Ireland.

4. Japan

Japan comes fourth among the world's countries with the highest levels of education, with teaching, manga writing and engineering being among the most common and sought-after jobs in the country. Also, you'd be surprised to learn that Japan is currently the largest pornographic producer in the world; thus, adult filmmaking is another field that occupies a large percentage of the population. 60,7% of the population aged 25–34 had completed tertiary education in 2018.

3. Canada

In regards to a country's levels of education, Canada also ranks pretty high, taking third place with 61,8 % of its population having received tertiary education. Careers that are becoming highly in demand in Canada are in the healthcare industry, which is also the highest-paying field in the country.

2. Russia

Russia has the second-highest percentage of the population with tertiary education, which is a steady 62,7% during both 2017 and 2018. According to data collected by Russias's Ministry of Labour and Social Protection, the occupations with the highest demand in the country are lawyers, chefs and cashiers.

1. Korea

According to OECD's data, Korea has the world's most educated population since 69,6% of its citizens have received the highest education. This country is one of the most technologically advanced, whereas medicine, the public sector, and sales are the fields that attract the majority of employees.

Ewha Woman's University in Seoul, South Korea

Ewha Woman's University in Seoul, South Korea

Countries with the lowest percentage of the population with tertiary education

CountryPercentage of population with tertiary education in 2017Percentage of population with tertiary education in 2018

South Africa















Counties With the Lowest Percentage of Population With Tertiary Education

Having seen the countries with the most educated population, it would be beneficial to also take a look at the ones with the highest rates of education exclusion. South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico all share a common trait: poverty, which results in a lack of infrastructure, technology and human resources. South Africa comes first in the list, a fact that takes no one by surprise. In fact, ever since the United Nations first invented the term "least developed countries", African countries have dominated the list.

Currently, more than 17 million children in the continent don't attend school, while schools lack even the basic amenities, from potable water to textbooks. On the other hand, Italy has a large economy (the world's 8th largest) but ranks fifth on the list of less educated countries. Italy also has the second-lowest percentage of university graduates in the European Union. A crucial factor for this is that Italy spends less on education than other countries in the EU.

The term "least developed countries" was an invention made in the late 1960s by the United Nations, while the first group of them was listed in 1971. In order for a country to be listed as one, it needs to meet three criteria: high levels of poverty, economic vulnerability and a low human development index.

Sign in Uganda, Africa

Sign in Uganda, Africa

Why Pursue a Higher Education?

No one could argue with the fact that in our century, society values higher education more than ever before. Pursuing one is as important as finishing high school, and many would support—myself included—that it's even more crucial for anyone who desires to significantly improve their chances of leading a happy life. That's because education offers a great number of benefits and not just the chance to prepare for a career and land a well-paid job. In fact, in the long term, it affects all aspects of a person's life.

More Money, Better Health, and More

Apart from post-secondary education serving as the means to earn more money, it has a positive effect on a person's health since people with financial security tend to have less stress in their everyday lives, a factor responsible for many diseases. Also, they develop their communication and critical thinking skills and are offered the chance to meet different people from different backgrounds, which can help them broaden their horizons and become more open-minded. What is more, individuals with tertiary education develop a greater sense of discipline and responsibility, which results in them making wiser decisions and, in general, leading better lives.

The main hope for a nation lies in the proper education of it's youth.

— Erasmus



This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2020 Margaret Pan