AN Aussie, a Kiwi and an Irishman walk into a pub . . . and according to new data it's Australia's turn to be the butt of the jokes.The data shows Australia ranking behind New Zealand, Ireland and ten other countries in a global education index.
Published in a report called The Learning Curve by worldwide education firm Pearson, the index compares the cognitive skills and education attainment of 40 countries.
Finland tops the list, followed by South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.
The UK is ranked at number six and New Zealand, Canada and Ireland also rank above Australia, which languishes at 13 in the list.
But we can take comfort in the fact that the United States falls behind Australia at number 17.
Pearson said the report was designed to help policy makers and educators identify the common elements of effective education that lead to better social and economic outcomes.
Pouring money into schools and increased family incomes do have a positive affect on educational outcomes, the report said.
But the more valuable factor was the cultural importance placed on education, as indicated by the results out of Finland, Canada and South Korea.
"On the surface, money and education seem to create a virtuous circle, with rich countries and individuals buying good educations for their children who, in turn, benefit economically," it said.
"A closer look, though, indicates that both higher income levels and better cognitive test scores are the result of educational strategies adopted, sometimes years earlier, independently of the income levels existing at the time."
There was no substitute for having a good teacher, the report added.
"Having a better one is statistically linked not only to higher income later in life but to a range of social results including lower chances of teenage pregnancy and a greater tendency to save for their own retirement," it said.
But the biggest problem was that there is no "universal recipe" for finding them.
The index was based on research carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit, and used Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data.