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Global Report: World’s Highest-Performing School Systems

Following the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s report of its 2009 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the AFT visited the countries that scored the highest—Canada (Ontario), China (Shanghai), Finland, Japan (Tokyo) and Singapore.  

Lessons Learned in Finland

"Lessons Learned in Finland"

What we discovered was that these countries, different as they are, all take a systemic approach to education. Their lead in student performance is consistently reinforced by the societal standards that view education as the bedrock of their country’s prosperity and future success, and invest in it accordingly.

Schools combine consistent, high-quality teaching; rigorous learning standards; a robust curriculum; and strong foundational skills with strong support services to ensure that all children are ready to learn. These common patterns were found without fail throughout our observations in the classrooms of these high-performing systems. In addition, a shared national agenda, a collective responsibility for learning, respect for teachers, and a focus on education as an instrument of economic equity serve as fundamental values within these top education systems.

Why Education Works in Singapore

"Why Education in Singapore Works"

As we move forward, we acknowledge the well-developed areas of our own education system in the United States, and progress with hopes of not only bringing the best practices home, but also sharing them worldwide. The chief lesson learned from our missions to countries with high-performing education systems is this: The best education system is not one of the systems we visited nor is it the U.S. system, but rather a blending of the various models.

The AFT has assembled a special report, "Lessons Learned from the World's Highest-Performing School Systems" that reviews the innovative learning methods and teacher development practices in these educationally top-performing countries as well as videos highlighting our visits to Singapore and Finland. For additional information, contact