Irish school system was ranked 11th in a new global top 50 ranking. The US followed not far behind with a 17 place ranking.

Finland and South Korea were ranked at the top of the class.  Rounding out the top ten were Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, the UK, Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Canada.

The rankings, called the Learning Curve Report was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Pearsons hopes to use the results of the Learning Curve Report to study what variables produce good educational outcomes.

To compile a ranking, the Learning Curve Report considers government spending, school entrance age, class size, teacher salaries, and the degree offered by the school. Literacy levels and graduation rates as well as unemployment and prison rates are also taken into consideration.

Ireland scored well in literacy and graduation rates. In that category it came in fifth after South Korea, the UK, Finland, and Poland. Higher Education chief executive Tom Boland said that Ireland was doing well, but “we cannot rest on our laurels.” Maybe next year Ireland will break the top ten.

The United States ranking was likely hurt by the economic crisis causing high unemployment and low teacher salaries.

The Learning Curve Report found that there is no substitute for good teachers, whose impact extends beyond the classroom to society. The report said that having a better teacher is statistically linked to students’  higher income later in life, lower chances of teen pregnancy, and a greater probability of saving for their own retirement.

The report said that part of retaining good teachers is “valuing them as professionals and not as technicians in a huge, educational machine.”

The level of support for education within the culture impacted the effectiveness of the educational system. The report also found that countries with a higher number of choices for school did better than countries with only a couple school choices.