Wealth in Asia

Singapore tops OECD’s global school ranking, US placed 28th

Luke Graham, special to CNBC

Asian countries have topped the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)'s ranking of school performance across 76 countries, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The high-profile report, which ranked countries based on 15-year-old students' average scores in mathematics and science, placed Singapore in first place. The U.K. was ranked in 20th place, while the U.S. came in 28th, below countries including, Hong Kong, Canada and Vietnam.

Education key to wage gap: Fred Salerno
Education key to wage gap: Fred Salerno

Asian students dominated the top of the rankings, with Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan home to the highest-achieving students outside of Singapore. All these countries are categorized by the OECD as high-income, in common with Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. Vietnam, however, is a lower-middle income country.

The report also ranked countries based on the percentage of students who had not acquired basic education skills, categorized as those who achieved below 420 points in the math and science tests.

Read More Key to wealth? More education, study says

Ghana in West Africa, categorised as a lower-middle income country, came at the top of this table, with almost 90 percent of students not acquiring basic skills. Hong Kong had the fewest students without basic skills, at less than 10 percent.

The report claimed 24 percent of students in the U.S. had not acquired basic skills, making it the second-worst high-income country in the world on this measure, after Luxembourg. The OECD argued that if the U.S. could ensure all students reached this baseline, over $27 trillion dollars would be added to the national economy over the course of the students' working lives.

South Korean students take their College Scholastic Ability Test. More than 640,000 high school seniors and graduates sit for the examinations across the country.
Getty Images

The U.K. did slightly better in the ranking, with just under 20 percent of students failing to acquire basic skills. The report estimated that improving education scores by 25 points over the next 15 years in the U.K. would add $8.6 trillion dollars to national GDP.

"These figures show we still have plenty to do. U.K. schools are treading water when we know that matching the very best in Europe could boost the growth rate by one percentage point every year," Rob Wall, head of education and employment policy for the Confederation of British Industry, told CNBC.

"High-performing schools and colleges are the best way to support economic growth and provide greater opportunities for young people…No issue matters more to British businesses or to the UK economy over the long term than the quality of our education system."

The rankings were based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in each country, using a combination of results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

The top ten countries were:

  1. Singapore
  2. Hong Kong
  3. South Korea
  4. Japan
  5. Taiwan
  6. Finland
  7. Estonia
  8. Switzerland
  9. Netherlands
  10. Canada

Also on Wednesday, the World Economic Forum reported that global GDP could be boosted by 20 percent if countries maximized their citizens' talents, including through education and skills development.

Follow us on Twitter: @CNBCWorld