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Where Kids Attend the Most (and Least) School

Photograph by Twenty20

Kids growing up in the U.S. attend school for around 15 years on average—far longer than their peers in countries like Niger, Ethiopia and Pakistan, and just slightly longer than kids growing up in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Sweden and Switzerland.

This so-called "student life expectancy" data comes out of a recently released report of the Global Innovation Index, which examined not only education levels of the world's populations but also policies, economies and other factors among 141 countries whose populations represent 95.1 percent of the world's population and 98.6 percent of global GDP.

The data is based on education data from 2011 and isn't the usual global education comparison we're used to: performance on the PISA test, which often ranks U.S. kids far lower than comparatively rich countries in Europe, and also China, Singapore, Japan and other countries in Asia.

What this data shows is that, on average, U.S. kids are more likely to finish 12 years of elementary and high school education and at least some college. Lithuanian kids attend school just slightly longer than U.S. students on average, while Greece students go for slightly less.

Australian students have the longest "school life expectancy" in the world, according to this report, spending nearly 20 years of their lives in school. New Zealand is right behind for nearly as many years, followed by Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands and Norway.

Interestingly, this school life expectancy information from the Global Innovation Index doesn't exactly predict which countries score highest on innovation in the groups research. Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Sweden topped this year's GII, which is the 8th edition of the report. School life expectancy in these three countries, respectively, are all a couple of years less than the U.S. data and several years fewer than the chart-topping Australia.

Students in China and Japan, which also tend to score high on the international exam of 15-year-olds (PISA), attend far fewer years of school, on average, than the rest of the world. In China, school life expectancy is between 12 and 13 years. In Japan, it's slightly over 15.

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