South Korea, Finland, Singapore, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Africa, the US, and Russia are the top 10 toughest education systems in the world, according to a new report by MastersDegree.net.
MastersDegree.net, a global platform for college and graduate school planning, said the list is a compilation of various education systems globally that are recognised for their rigorous and demanding nature.
It added that the list is based on factors that include the education system’s structure, the country’s most challenging exam, tertiary education attainment, most popular degree, prevalence of stress among students, acceptance rate of the best college in that country, and average national IQ scores.
Here are more details on the countries with the 10 toughest education systems in the world:
A survey in South Korea from 2022 found that approximately 35.6 percent of students experienced stress in their school life in two weeks, according to MastersDegree.net.
It stated that college students and those beyond college reported higher stress levels compared to elementary, middle, and high school students. The average IQ in South Korea is 106.
“In South Korea, there’s a tough college entrance test called Suneung. It lasts eight hours and covers various subjects. Considered one of the world’s hardest exams, it’s a big deal because it decides which university you can go to, and what job you might get, and can even impact your future relationships.
“After school, Korean students attend tutoring classes and exam centres until 10 pm or 11 pm. When they get home, they continue studying on their own until 1 or 2 am. On average, high school students in Korea study for about 16 hours a day to get ready for the Suneung exam,” it said.
According to MastersDegree.net, the most recent survey on the health and well-being of Finnish students, university students in Finland experience more mental health issues compared to other adults in the country.
“Specifically, 40 percent of female students and 28 percent of male students reported feeling anxious or depressed,” it said.
“The Finnish matriculation examination is a nationwide test usually taken at the end of high school in Finland. Its main goal is to see how well students have learned the required knowledge and skills during their high school years and if they’ve matured in line with the goals of their education.
“If students pass this exam, they can go on to study at universities and other higher education institutions. Around 30,000 candidates pass the examination annually, of which 25,000 pass it in the spring,” it said.
In a recent survey about mental health and well-being in Singapore, conducted in May 2022 by Rakuten Insight, 63 percent of young respondents aged 16 to 24 said they felt more stressed or anxious in the past year, it said.
MastersDegree.net said the Singapore-Cambridge GCE A-Level exam is a tough test to face in Singapore.
“A total of 10,930 candidates participated in the 2022 GCE A-Level examination. 93.4 percent of these candidates, amounting to 10,206 students, achieved success by securing at least 3 H2 passes, including a pass in either General Paper or Knowledge and Inquiry.
“This level of performance aligns with the historical trends observed in previous years’ GCE A-Level Examinations,” it said.
It said research shows that college students in China experienced elevated stress levels before and after returning to school.
“In fact, approximately 67.50 percent of students had moderate to high stress levels, which is in contrast to an earlier study that reported only 28.79 percent of students experiencing stress.
The Gaokao, which stands for the Nationwide Unified Examination for Admissions to General Universities and Colleges, is China’s national college entrance exam.
It takes place annually in early June and is a crucial test for students seeking admission to undergraduate programs.
Beginning on June 7, the Gaokao exam period spans from two to four days, varying by province.
“In 2023, a record-breaking 12.91 million students participated in the Gaokao, which was 980,000 more than the previous year, marking the highest number of participants in its history,” MastersDegree.net said.
MastersDegree.net stated that around 84.0 percent of male students and 95.1 percent of female students experience stress in Japan.
“Japanese students applying to universities take an important test called the National Center Test for University Admissions.
“It happens over two days in January, and over half a million students take it. There are 29 different tests in six subjects, and which ones a student takes depends on the university they want to go to,” it said.
In Hong Kong, the stress level among students is reported to be around 48.6 percent, according to MastersDegree.net.
It said the Hong Kong Diploma of Education is the main exam for students in Form 6 in mainstream schools.
“This exam is known for its difficulty, especially the Chinese and English Paper 3 sections.
“It is a good choice for students who prefer traditional learning methods, memorisation, and plan to attend a Hong Kong university, although some international universities also accept this diploma for admission.
“The Chinese language level in the exam is quite high, using traditional characters,” MastersDegree.net said.
It said in Taiwan, school-related issues and academic tests are the top stressors, with 56.7 percent of respondents affected by school factors and 45.6 percent by academic tests.
“The GSAT is an important test that assesses high school students’ fundamental knowledge to determine their readiness for college,” it said.
“It covers subjects like Chinese, English, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science, with a maximum score of 75.
“The test includes various question formats, such as multiple-choice, response writing, and essay writing, depending on the subject.
“Students planning to join certain programs or apply personally need a GSAT score. The exam is typically held in January each year,” MastersDegree.net said.
It said among students in South Africa, 58.2 percent of females and 41.8 percent of males experienced mental distress.
“The National Senior Certificate exams, often called ‘matric,’ are a significant yearly event in South Africa. They mark the end of twelve years of formal education and serve as a gauge of the education system’s overall health,” it stated.
MastersDegree.net stated that in the United States, 67 percent of American students experience stress during their academic journey.
“The Graduate Record Examination is a standardized test commonly used for admissions into graduate programs (master’s and doctoral degrees) in various fields, particularly in the United States and some other countries.
“It is designed to assess your readiness for advanced-level academic work and your potential for success in graduate-level studies,” it said.
According to MastersDegree.net, the stress level among students is 55.4 percent in Russia.
“The Unified State Exam is a set of exams in Russia that every high school graduate must take to qualify for admission to a university or a professional college,” it said. “These exams are a mandatory requirement for further education in Russia.”