Study Reveals Most Rigorous Education Systems Globally

China Singapore Asia Higher Education News by Erudera News Jan 23, 2024

student exam

A recent study has found that South Korea, Singapore, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, as well as Finland, Russia, the United States, and South Africa, have some of the world’s most rigorous education systems.

According to research by, a leading education resource platform, these countries are placed in the top ten for the most rigorous academic standards and high expectations.

The analysis considered several factors, including education system structure, most challenging national exams, higher education attainment, student stress levels and more, reports.

Data by the Ministry of Education show South Korea has an education system structure of six years in elementary school, three years in middle school, and another three years in high school. Students spend two to four years in college, with two years in junior college and four years in general college.

Moreover, the country has one of the most demanding college entrance exams, known as Suneung, which lasts eight hours. This exam not only determines at which university students can be admitted but also what job they might have.

Research points out that students in South Korea have reported high levels of stress due to the pressure associated with the education system.

However, South Korea is actively working to position itself among the most popular study destination, aiming to attract 300,000 international students by 2027.

Singapore also has one of the most difficult education systems, highlighted by the Singapore-Cambridge GCE A-Level exam with very challenging questions.

The education system in Singapore is build on a structure of six years in primary school, four to six in secondary school, and then one to three in tertiary education.

China stands among the nations with a very demanding education system, especially with Gaokao as its national college entrance exam, which is known as the world’s toughest exam.

Students in China start education with six years in elementary school, then they attend middle school and high school, each for three years, and four years at the university.

According to the study “Interannual evolution of adolescent mental health in 2009 and 2020,” Chinese adolescents are at a high risk of depression. The survey found that 40 percent of senior high school students experienced symptoms of depression.

Japan obliges students to spend six years in elementary school and then continue with three years of lower secondary school. After completing these nine years of school, students in Japan need to attend upper secondary schools for a total of three years.

Depending on the faculty, higher education in Japan, where a new system to recognize Japanese universities is expected to be launched soon, lasts four or six years.

The analysis by shows the hardest exam in Japan is the National Center Test for University Admissions, which is usually held in January for two days and taken from over half a million students.

The same reveals that Finland, Russia, the United States, and South Africa are among the countries with the toughest education systems in the world.

"As per 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% of female students and 28% of male students reported feeling anxious or depressed," the report points out.

Moreover, Hong Kong and Taiwan are among the top six Asian countries with the most difficult education systems globally.

Hong Kong’s educational framework includes six years of primary education, three of junior secondary education, three years of senior secondary education, and a final four years of higher education.

On the other hand, Taiwan requires six years of elementary education, followed by three years of junior high school, another three years of senior high school, and four years of tertiary education.

The two most challenging exams in both countries are the HKDSE (Hong Kong Diploma of Education), and GSAT in Taiwan which is an important tests that determine whether students are ready for college.

© Nguyen Dang Hoang Nhu | Unsplash

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