10 key facts to understand the context of Nordics school system

Nordics are particularly fascinating when it comes to Education. 

Before publishing my first articles, I thought it was necessary to share key indicators about the Nordics to better understand these countries context and how France relates to them. 

This post is only descriptive. 

European integration

Amongst the Nordic countries previously mentioned, only Finland belongs to the Eurozone. However, Norway does not belong to the European Union nor the Eurozone.

Are you lost?

Please have a long on the following table…

European Integration - Nordic Countries - France1- Population density 

Let’s start by the number of inhabitants in these different countries…

We note that they are fewer inhabitants in that countries than there are in Paris, the capital of France.

2-Nominal GDP and GDP per capita

3- Human Development Index 

The Human Development Index (HDI) measures the key dimensions of human development (beyond the two indicators previously mentioned) based on three criteria:
  1. GDP per capita,
  2. life expectancy at birth,
  3. access to education,

Each country is given a score between 0 and 1. The closer a country gets to 1, the more developed it is. At the global level, the HDI is 0.717.

Norway ranks first in the world in terms of HDI while France and Finland, rank 21st and 23rd (with a pretty similar HDI) 

More info: http://hdr.undp.org/en/composite/HDI

4- Government expenditure on education

Public spending on education is much higher in the Nordic countries as shown in the table below.

In 2016, France invested 6.7% of its GDP in education (doc is in French), ie 149.9 billion euros, which is devoted to the domestic expenditure of education in 2016.

I recommend this article in addition and the table below from the World Bank.

5- Tax revenue

6- French annual expenditure per student

Education spending covers expenditure on schools, universities and other public and private educational institutions. Spending includes instruction and ancillary services for students and families provided through educational institutions. Spending is shown in USD per student and as a percentage of GDP.

It seems that in France, the annual expenditure per student varies according to the level of education, as shown in the table below. Thus, compared to the average of OECD countries, we note that annual expenditure per child at primary level is rather low (-15% compared to the average for OECD countries) whereas these expenditures are higher in high school (+37% in upper).

French annual expenditure per student

More info here (in French): Regards sur l’éducation, 2017, OCDE  

7 – Teachers’ salaries  

8 – PISA survey

The PISA (Programme for International Students Assessment) survey aims at comparing student performance internationally. It is a triennial investigation ordered by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) focused on science, with reading, mathematics and collaborative problem solving as minor areas of assessment.

Approximately 540 000 students completed the assessment in 2015, representing about 29 million 15-year-olds in the schools of the 72 participating countries and economies.

A lot has already been said about it, so please refer to the following resources here.


Gini index measures the extent to which the distribution of income (or, in some cases, consumption expenditure) among individuals or households within an economy deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. Thus a Gini index of 0 represents perfect equality, while an index of 100 implies perfect inequality.

10-Happiest countries in the world ranking

The World Happiness Report 2018 ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels and 117 countries by the happiness of their immigrants World Happiness Report. It was created in 2012 by the UN and published by the SDSN.

Below are the rankings:

  • 1st: Finland,
  • 2nd: Norway,
  • 3rd: Denmark,
  • 9th: Sweden,
  • 23rd: France.

It is interesting to note that Finland exceeds Norway and Denmark for example while having a weaker GDP per capita.

What is the methodology used?

It is actually a series of questions answered by approximatively  1000 people, concerning their own quality of life’s perception. On a scale of 1 to 10, they should rate:

  • compassion,
  • freedom,
  • generosity,
  • honesty,
  • health,
  • social protection,
  • good governance.

The study then examines the data according to six categories (GDP per capita, social assistance, life expectancy, individual freedoms, generosity and absence of corruption).

What indicators do you think are interesting and important to observe? Do you have other sources?

More information: