12 Jul2013

Here is a ranking of countries whose adults have completed a two or four year college degree.

1. Canada – 51% (of adults 25+ that have completed a degree)
2. Israel – 46%
3. Japan – 45%
4. United States – 42%
5. New Zealand – 41%
6. South Korea – 40% (this rose 10% in just the last 15 years or so!)
7. United Kingdom – 38%
8. Finland – 38%
9. Australia – 38%
10. Ireland – 37%

And yes, educational attainment is HIGHLY correlated with national income levels (with exceptions, like some resource rich (oil) countries)… And yes, one can argue that the quality of education also matters. But at any rate, I listed these out because I found the data interesting, and the Philippine statistics shockingly appalling. Data is from this interesting article, which was sourced from other reports as well.



  1. Footloose says:

    Great link. Seems to encapsulate something I came across somewhere “if you think education is expensive try ignorance.” Surprised to not see Germany and France or even Singapore in the top ten though.

    Jul 12, 2013 | 8:46 am


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  3. ami says:

    Surprised to not see more scandinavian nations on the top 10 list.

    Jul 12, 2013 | 9:17 am

  4. Joseph says:

    I’m surprised that the Philippines is not in the list considering we have tons of diploma mills in our country.

    Jul 12, 2013 | 9:53 am

  5. Marketman says:

    The most educated countries in the world spend roughly 5-6% of their annual GDP to educate their populace. In the Philippines, the recent figures are just 2% of GDP or 1/3 the recommended expenditure of 6%, according to this article. And that is just in percentage terms, not nominal amounts. To put it in perspective, the roughly PHP250 billion spent on education last year or the year before that, needs to be increased by PHP500 billion more PER YEAR to come close to suggested recommended levels. Considering that we have an annual budget in the roughly PHP3 trillion mark, 16% of all government expenditure would have to go to education. And you would have to do that for say 10-15+ years in a row to make a marked impact! Whoa! And I haven’t mentioned the bucks needed for decent food, housing and medical care of the populace. Overwhelming…

    Jul 12, 2013 | 10:02 am

  6. Marketman says:

    Joseph, you will be appalled how low the number is, EVEN with the diploma mills.

    Footloose, I was surprised by Singapore too, and can’t find a definitve statistic for percentage of adults with college degree, but found this interesting NYTimes article that says quite a few go to college, similar to other developed countries… but I suspect the numbers have to be qualified. Singapore citizens vs. residents, as maybe 20+% are temporary workers/residents. Then of citizens, there are local colleges, and lots that go off to school abroad… I suspect overall they are close to the Top 10 in the world, but because it is a relatively young nation, maybe a lot of the elder population do not have a degree and bring the percentages down? That’s just a guess… I thought HK might be up there too. And Norway, etc. as Ami suggested…

    Jul 12, 2013 | 10:10 am

  7. Rob says:

    Several years ago, I read that Thailand spends 4 times the amount the Philippines spends per year per student for education.

    Jul 12, 2013 | 11:37 am

  8. Irene says:

    Jul 12, 2013 | 12:48 pm

  9. ros says:

    I think it’s also correlated to the culture’s/generation’s degree of Anti-intellectualism. I remember barely 20 years ago that it is a source of pride(a non issue really) if you can carry a conversation in English in full with no/minimal grammatical errors. Now you’ll be either be sneered at with “nose-bleed” comments/jokes or gain distrust or even outright hostility.
    I blame a misplaced Nationalism bordering on xenophobia and the myth that is being promulgated that Rizal(a polyglot) said those words about the “Mahigit sa hayop at malansang isda” and all of that.

    Also I think it all boils down on how pragmatic/sensible the people of a certain country is. On how realistically its people(and in turn its policy makers) deals with REAL WORLD problems and the degree of importance that is put on tradition and superstitions.


    Jul 12, 2013 | 1:37 pm

  10. Marketman says:

    I hasten to add, that despite this and other enlightened administrations ardent efforts to improve the numbers for the Philippines, they are up against a ticking time bomb. With more than half of the Philippine population below the age of 18 now, and a very WIDE bottom when it comes to the population, the numbers of future grade schoolers who will eventually graduate from college is almost certainly skewed on the dark side. Add in 30% childhood malnutrition with permanent brain impact and it paints a pretty bleak picture. Of course one could focus on the 2-4% of the population that will do well educationally, but you would in turn have to ignore the 96-98% who wallow in the shadows…

    Jul 12, 2013 | 2:15 pm

  11. present tense says:

    And to think of the sacrifices our OFWs are making. And the hidden psychological effects of children having to live under a under a single parent. Children of single parents behave rather differently I’m told though i’ve no studies to cite. That’s why a life of crime pays in this country. By that time, I dont even think monetary policy will make a difference

    Jul 12, 2013 | 4:25 pm

  12. j. says:

    As a side note:I am wondering where Switzerland is, in the scheme of things. Considering the Swiss educational system [primary and secondary] is highly prized.

    Public schools in PI make children’s parents pay for items and other costs indirectly attributed to school, and I’ve heard quite a few teachers speak broken English, and teach the same poor grammar, or even worse, to their students. I’ve been to other countries that teach English [as a secondary language or as a foreign language], and their English teachers almost always have a great grasp of the language, though not diction. I have no problems with accents, just grammar!

    Jul 12, 2013 | 4:52 pm

  13. Marketman says:

    J., see this link to the swiss system. Not easy to find a similar number as those I listed above, but the swiss system has a lot of options from apprenticeship to vocational, college, university, etc. I like that mixture, as I feel not everyone should attend a typical 4-year university program. If the Philippines encouraged 20-30% of its population to pursue professional level vocations like world-class electricians, plumbers, carpenters, welders, sewers, etc. I think you would find far more employable and employed folks…

    Jul 12, 2013 | 5:11 pm

  14. Marketman says:

    Oh, and another thought, a huge proportion of new university or college graduates remain unemployed for months or years on end. So imagine if we tripled the number of university graduates? What would they do for a living? :(

    Jul 12, 2013 | 5:12 pm

  15. j. says:

    Marketman, link not included, but that’s okay.

    Japan’s educational system churn out highly educated men and women, who cannot find work, and who are shamed [mostly through cultural norms]. It is one of the major components of a phenomenon called: hikikomori [there are other reasons why, but that would overly complicate my point]. Hikikomori, is fast becoming a psychological phenomenon outside of its Japanese beginnings, especially in western countries like the US, where you have highly educated individuals who cannot find work etc… and simply just close themselves off from society. I agree with apprenticeships, skilled trade etc… instead of college degrees. Here in the US, there is a HUGE gap in the need for skilled trade and skilled workers, because the culture itself has shifted from one that invites skilled workers to disdaining them because they have no diploma of sorts. Even mechanics today have to have some sort of diploma instead of OTJ training…

    Jul 12, 2013 | 6:09 pm

  16. Marketman says:

    j., my apologies for leaving out the link, I have added it now. Go to the bottom of the link for a clear visual on the swiss system.

    Yes, I agree we need to encourage more high school level kids to pursue more vocational or specialty areas… what I would give for a really competent mechanic, carpenter, electrician, plumber, etc.

    On recent renovation work, I have come across several electricians who quite literally curled their own hair. Asked if a plug was 110v or 220v in our home, and one “electrician” stuck his little finger in, flinched a bit, and said, with a smile “ay sir, 110v!” or the gas technician who we called in to inspect our copper pipes from stove to LPG tank for leaks, who I thought would make some sudsy water and sponge it onto the pipes to look out for bubbles says instead something like… “oh no, I just light my lighter and look for little flareups to find leaks”… needless to say, we all ran out of kitchen pronto. And frankly, I would pay a good PHP500 or so for a two-hour visit of a really competent plumber or electrician. That would mean they could easily earn at least PHP1,000-2,000 per day, or more than a middle manager with a four year college degree, probably with honors, in a local bank branch. Not to mention the welder, electrician and plumber would be on the priority list for wanted immigrants to places like Canada, waiting a decade shorter than some other wannabe immigrants. :)

    Jul 12, 2013 | 6:22 pm

  17. Footloose says:

    I got so much charge out of this anecdote directly above. That’s what they call a “live wire” in electrician talk. The plumber trying to ignite tiny flares is a canary in a coal mine.

    Jul 12, 2013 | 7:16 pm

  18. Marketman says:

    Hahaha! :)

    Jul 12, 2013 | 7:37 pm

  19. j. says:

    Thanks for fixing the link.

    oh my! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry or both…

    A month or so ago, there was a news report in Manila, of two houses with floors hot enough to cook an egg, and the homeowner(s) proceeded to do just that. It took a while for engineers [I believe a homeowner consulted one] to figure out that wiring/electrical problems was the culprit… i would think that would be one of the first things that would have been checked.

    Jul 12, 2013 | 8:52 pm

  20. friedneurons says:

    Re: the gas “technician” who was looking for leaks with a lighter… I’d have freaked out, and then promptly kicked him out of my home. lol

    Jul 12, 2013 | 11:18 pm

  21. Connie C says:

    I am often amazed if not aghast at the nonchalance our young electricians do their jobs. I remarked once why they did not carry protective devices, rubber gloves for example when doing high voltage electrical work or using safety ladders and walking on narrow ledges instead. The response, “mangingisay lang naman , ma’am”, reflective of the Filipino fatalistic attitude. Even if in jest, just shows occupational safety is often ignored. Perhaps if given the appropriate job training and education, safety precautions might be observed.

    Jul 13, 2013 | 12:13 am

  22. Wanda says:

    Another reason why Singapore may not be on the list might be because Singaporean men tend to be older when they go to university, due to the mandatory government service requirement they must fulfill. My sister’s boyfriend is Singaporean, and only finished his service requirement at age 23, and then started university at 24.

    Jul 13, 2013 | 6:15 am

  23. jody says:

    I am very surprised to see the United States make the list

    Ireland and Israel made very difficult political decisions to do with the allocation of scarce resources to education and the dividends started to flow during the late 1980’s.

    Ireland, a tiny country on the periphery of Europe, accounted for more than 8 per cent of the total stock of US foreign direct investment in Europe in 2011.

    A superb educational system together with a favorable taxation system and bingo.


    Jul 13, 2013 | 8:26 am

  24. jody says:

    I am quite sorry about another post but no matter.
    I personally believe that nationalism is for the birds when people are not able to put three square meals on the table every day.

    I also believe that the Irish and Israeli educational systems are the most appropriate for the Philippines. It is ridiculous to think that all people should go and get a college degree. Most trades people in both countries undergo a five year apprenticeship and this includes a mixture of formal classroom schooling and on the job training. In the case of Ireland all apprentices are then certified by the London City Guilds.

    I also believe that the lifetime earning capacity of a licensed plumber or electrician here in NYC would far exceed most professions. I am not sure if Marketman will allow the following link.


    The link has to do with a blog detailing how much money graduates from Law Schools here in the US can expect to make. This blog has often been quoted in the WSJ and NYT during the last few years and the entries make for brutal reading. This is the world of 2013 when back office work of all descriptions is being shipped to India.

    What is education? In the real world I live in, education has much to do with the ability to put food on the table.There is plenty of time to “go and discover the nature of things” once food has been placed on the table.It is all nice and dandy for Mrs. Gomez to go out tell the neighbors that the children have graduated from college but the big question has to be “what about the dosh”?

    Jul 13, 2013 | 9:27 am

  25. ConnieC says:

    Jody: A doctor remarked to his mom that he is in the wrong profession. A grinder pump technician repaired a neighbor’s sewer pump and charged over $700 for an hour and a half of labor. The rest of the bill covered parts and travel time. Some dosh for a real shit job!

    A dual education system with regulated standards combining apprenticeships in a company and vocational education at a vocational school at the same time similar to Germany and other European countries and even now in China would be an example to follow after a basic high school diploma or equivalent.

    For those academically inclined and qualifying for higher studies, students can proceed to higher education. Others might pursue the appropriate track for the required certificate or diploma. This may avoid diploma mills and turning out more unqualified professions than needed.

    The US is beginning to realize this after the recent collapse of the job market while some industries are wanting for many skilled jobs, positions that cannot be filled for lack of trained workers. This is where a degree of state intervention and support is needed to determine and allocate resources working along/towards the nation’s economic goals or plan.

    But first, the nation must establish its priorities, education foremost, and create a viable economic plan and hopefully, provide enough jobs for most of its properly educated citizens.

    Jul 13, 2013 | 8:20 pm

  26. Eina says:

    Re: Diploma mills. Don’t know how they got the numbers, but maybe they’ve found a way to exclude diploma mills?

    Re: The absence of Scandinavian countries. Some people will take a few courses based on what they need for their job or what they’re interested in, instead of pursuing a degree. It’s also possible to qualify for a degree by accumulating enough points in certain subject areas, but maybe people don’t bother to formally get their degree. Sweden has 18 secondary school programs (secondary school is 3 years long and preceded by 9 years of primary school, the students are about 16-19 years old) and only a third of those qualify a student for college; the rest are vocational. Vocational students can take extra courses later to qualify for college, but I think it shows that there are other tracks available. I’ve been wondering if the fact that everyone has the opportunity to go college (if they’d like) makes it less of a be-all and end-all. It isn’t an indicator of the family’s means, of how hard your parents worked to put you through school, or your intelligence.

    Jul 13, 2013 | 9:30 pm

  27. Eina says:

    There are probably a considerable number of Filipinos who began college but had to drop out at some point due to finances.

    Based on my personal experience, a number of people may have completed all their other courses, encountered problems with their thesis, gotten other opportunities in the meantime and planned to come back and complete their degree later.

    Jul 13, 2013 | 9:45 pm

  28. jody says:

    Connie: I did not mean to make anyone mad by including the link in the post. The name of the blog has shock value and they intend prospective law student to shape up and discern the monetary value of a law degree here in the US.

    My daughter in law is sending one of my grandchildren to an expensive college here in the US. The boy never really shone in academic subjects but he loved a metal/woodworking class that his secondary school provided. An associate who has an excellent machine tooling business in Tel Aviv proposed to my son that the boy do a machine tooling course and get certified with London City Guilds. True machinists are very hard to come by in 2013. You need to go through the five year apprenticeship and then spend another two or three years getting used to advanced CNC machines and the various software packages. The machines can cost anywhere north of half a million dollars so you really have to know your stuff. The boy is not really happy in college and I hope that he will follow through with the machinist course.

    I would be truly happy as he would have so many more options in life with this course. He could easily set up his own business and provide specialized tooling services to the pharma or aerospace industries. The boy would be mobile and could bring a business and his skills to any part of the world. London City Guilds certification is recognized worldwide. My daughter in law had vague dreams that maybe the boy would become a hot lawyer on Wall Street. This kind of thinking harkens back to the 1970’s and 1980’s. Life has changed and the world is getting flatter by the day.

    Education has changed and the same old tired college degrees will not cut the mustard going forward. We all have to become more creative. I think it is truly refreshing that most of the people who posted support the notion that it is truly farcical for everyone to go and get a college degree. Creative education and an open outlook is important. It is not by accident that tiny Israel has more technology listings on NASDAQ than all the BRIC countries combined. Most of these guys got their hands dirty in the Army and many tested their ideas while undergoing military service. There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting your hands dirty. All work has dignity. I have absolutely no problem with my grandson getting his hands dirty as he programmes CNC machines.


    Jul 14, 2013 | 5:03 am

  29. ConnieC says:

    Jody, I actually agree with you and what the site (shitlawjobs.com) satirizes which shows that higher education does not ensure one will make it in this crazy world with distorted priorities. Besides individuals getting the right training and education, parents must learn to allow their children to “follow their bliss”. It is a well known fact that job dissatisfaction and being in a misplaced profession or job often lead to job burn-out.

    And we have not said enough about paying teachers living wages especially in developing countries such that we lose many good ones to brain drain when we need them for quality education.

    Jul 14, 2013 | 5:38 am

  30. achtungbabe says:

    Someone a few posts above wondered why Germany wasn’t on the list. Well, Germany has a system of apprenticeships whereby one can study in a vocational school and at the same time be an apprentice for highly skilled jobs in the manufacturing and technology sector.

    Those who are not academically inclined can then go on to be a “meister”in a specified job, but to acquire this distinction the apprentices go through a highly regulated system which lasts years, after which, if they show promise, they are then absorbed into the workforce. This is why Germany has approximately 6.7% unemployment rate for the 21-29 age group. In comparison, Greece has roughly 65%, with Spain hovering at the 56% mark, according to a recent report in The Guardian.

    Electricians, carpenters, roof installers, builders, plumbers etc. all make a very good living here. In addition, you need to show proof that you are qualified to work as an electrician for example, as most homeowners and builders require this before they hire you. Something to do with insurance, I think, and which makes perfect sense. Also, before planning approval is given by the “Gemeinde” or town hall, as a homeowner you need to submit copies of their certificates.

    Not everybody aspires to finish university in Germany because you can have a successful career without it. Because Germany is still a predominantly manufacturing based country, there are plenty of jobs to go around and highly trained, skilled workers are in great demand. Unfortunately, it is difficult for non German EU citizens to come and work here because of the language, and more importantly, the system of apprenticeships. German workers are sought after even outside Germany because they are perceived to be highly trained to an exact standard.

    Jul 14, 2013 | 6:50 am

  31. kikas_head says:

    One reason it may be higher in the US (than I expected anyways) is due to the allowing the 2 year degree (AA or AS) and the fact that there are a lot of continuing education courses for adults. It is quite normal for an adult to go to university way past the traditional ages of 18-22 and since they are usually working, colleges offer night classes, online classes, etc to fit with a working person’s schedule.

    Slight aside, I hate the college requirements for jobs here. I will see postings all the time for job vacancies that require college level even though the job in now way requires higher education. In addition, the random requirements for many jobs (i.e., single, female, 5’2″ minimum, good teeth, ages 25-30) make it difficult for many people to find work.

    Jul 15, 2013 | 7:45 am

  32. Junb says:

    Singapore education become compulsory only for the last 10yrs wherein it becomes an offence if you don’t send yr kids to school. They can track it because they are using an ID system. Currently 99% of kids are now in primary school. The cost is a factor too as the primary and secondary is free for citizen. I expect singapore to be in the top in a few more years to come.

    Jul 16, 2013 | 9:10 pm

  33. Allen says:

    An informative article yet the person who created the article was trying to say that higher educated people can cope up with the recession without realizing that recession was just all about reaping the consequences of having free trade, globalization, and capitalism (Ideas of a well educated individual). We can’t blame people who can’t go to school just because they can’t afford without asking the goverment about the support they are giving to our education system. A country’s sucess can’t just boil down to the level of education it’s citizens have and i’m a bit confused about the reason why 247wallst.com came up with that topic without properly establishing the goal..

    Jul 17, 2013 | 8:02 am

  34. Natie says:

    There is now a dirth of skilled workers in the US: ” New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch are urging Congress to overhaul immigration laws to make it easier for skilled workers to come to the U.S., Devlin Barrett at our sister blog Metropolis, reports.

    The two, members of a group of business leaders and mayors called Partnership for a New American Economy that seeks to overhaul the immigration system, testified today before the House Judiciary Committee.

    Bloomberg told lawmakers that about one million high-skill positions in the U.S. are unfilled because companies can’t find the right workers. “Allowing companies to far more easily fill those jobs would be perhaps the best economic stimulus package Congress could create,” he said.

    Murdoch, noting he is an immigrant himself, called current U.S. policy “self-defeating” because the country now attracts successful students from around the world, educates them at top universities, and then requires many of them to leave. (News Corp., a global media company, owns The Wall Street Journal.)”

    Jul 21, 2013 | 9:43 pm


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