Student watching the clock in class

Does a greater number of years in school mean more learning?

When you compare education systems around the world to see what’s working and what isn’t, one of the metrics we often see is ‘school life expectancy.’  This is known as how many years students go to school. We most often assume that students go to school for at least 13 years (K-12), plus “some” college or post high school education in the U.S. In  schools in developing countries, we hear about children who can’t go to school past a young age (sometimes around 8 years old) because they need to make money for their family’s survival, because they don’t have the opportunity to do so, because of their gender, or because it would be dangerous or prohibitively expensive to do so.



A new report from Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization takes a look at school life expectancy around the globe. The results are pretty interesting, though this particular graph brings up a number of questions including a fairly substantial one: Does a greater number of years in school mean more learning, or students who are better prepared for careers? Obviously quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality, do we also see things like higher test scores in areas where school life expectancy is very high? What other big questions would you ask?

Global School Life Expectancy

Where are children going to school the longest? The graphic below looks at primary to tertiary education life expectancy around the globe.

  • There are 8 countries where students spend an average of 17-20 years in school: Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Finland
  • There are 5 countries where students spend an average of 0-5 years in school: Senegal, Pakistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, and Niger
  • The vast majority of countries for which data was available show that students spend between 10-15 years in school on average


Photo credit: Guardian

Via Edudemic