World's Smartest Countries
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World's Smartest Countries

09 January 2019

Time's up. Pencils down. Hand your papers in. It's time to tot up the scores and find out which is the brainiest nation once and for all.

The human race is pretty damn smart. Together, we’ve come up with nuclear fusion; the ability to travel through space and those pillows that are in the shape of another person so it feels like you’re being hugged. Yep, we’ve got lots to be proud of as a species.

But have you ever lain awake at night wondering which is the cleverest country? Perhaps you’ve run into a brainy Brazilian, a genius Ghanaian or a super smart Swiss and wondered which country has the most intelligent people.

Well, we at Vouchercloud now have the definitive answer: the end to this argument in the pub and probably the start of a few more. Using a range of data including number of Nobel Prizes won (to represent historic intelligence), current average IQ (to represent present intelligence), and educational attainment (the intelligence of the future generation); we’ve covered every area possible to find the most gifted population.

Smart Countries

So it’s our great pleasure to announce the overall winner: Japan. Consistently totalling high scores across all three categories, Japan’s Nobel Prize prowess matches its IQ score and pupil points, too. This makes sense in a country with a strong tradition of innovation and a huge emphasis on education — the land of the bullet train and the square watermelon comes out on top.

Rounding out the top 3 is consistently high-performing Switzerland in 2nd and China in 3rd. China, whilst lagging behind in the Nobel rankings, more than makes up for it with the 2nd highest national IQ and the 7th highest performing school kids.

In perhaps a sign of things to come, the US trails China in 4th, with the top Nobel ranking but a poorer showing in IQ (28th) and school achievement (13th). The UK makes the top 10 in a respectable 8th, but we shouldn’t be too complacent — whilst we have the 2nd highest number of Nobel Prizes, our IQ (17th) and school (30th) scores let us down.

What’s really telling is how incredibly well East Asian countries score in the IQ and school tests. South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore are all in the top 4 for both, but let down by Nobel scores that drag them to 10th and below overall. With a few more Nobel wins in the future, they’ll be on top for sure.

Nobel Prizes

Western countries tend to dominate here, the Nobel being a Western institution and all. Only Japan (6th), Israel (15th), India (18th), South Africa (18th) and China (21st) fall outside of this bracket. Expect radical shifts as Asia catches up in the coming years.

Ranking Country Number of Nobel Prizes
1 USA 368
2 UK 132
3 Germany 107
4 France 62
5 Sweden 30
6 Japan 26
6 Switzerland 26
8 Russia 23
8 Canada 23
10 Austria 21
11 Netherlands 20
11 Italy 20
13 Denmark 14
14 Norway 13
15 Australia 12
15 Poland 12
15 Israel 12
18 Belgium 10
18 India 10
18 South Africa 10
21 China 9
21 Hungary 9
23 Spain 8
24 Ireland 7
25 Czech Republic 5
25 Argentina 5

National IQ

Look at the top 6 countries! All Asian. The first entry from a non-Asian country, Finland, is over 3 points behind. Plenty of the usual suspects here but props to Liechtenstein (10th) and Mongolia (12th) for outperforming all expectations.

Ranking Country Average IQ
1 Singapore 107.1
2 China 105.8
3 Hong Kong 105.7
4 South Korea 104.6
4 Taiwan 104.6
6 Japan 104.2
7 Finland 100.9
8 Canada 100.4
8 Netherlands 100.4
10 Liechtenstein 100.3
11 Switzerland 100.2
12 Mongolia 100
13 Macao 99.9
14 Estonia 99.4
15 Belgium 99.3
16 Australia 99.2
17 UK 99.1
18 Austria 99
19 Czech Republic 98.9
19 New Zealand 98.9
21 Germany 98.8
22 Sweden 98.6
22 Iceland 98.6
24 France 98.1
24 Hungary 98.1

School Achievement

Children are the future and it's clear the future belongs to the 4-letter continent, with the top 5 countries being Asian. It's clear this represents a major shift in global intellectual power: as time goes by, we're going to see proportionally more innovation from the East, with Western ideas not dominating as they have done before.

Russia represents Europe in 6th whilst its neighbour Kazakhstan, hitherto famous only for Borat and being annexed by the Soviet Union, smashes expectations with the 9th smartest schoolchildren in the world. Could this be the rise of a new intellectual superpower? ALL HAIL THE KAZAKHS.

Ranking Country % of Students Achieving Advanced Scores
1 Singapore 71.37
2 South Korea 66.85
3 Hong Kong 66.66
4 Taiwan 63.21
5 Japan 58.01
6 Russia 38.46
7 China 38.27
8 Macao 37.02
9 Kazakhstan 32.64
10 Liechtenstein 32.06
11 Switzerland 31.93
12 Ireland 30.03
13 US 29.84
14 Hungary 29.40
15 Israel 29.19
16 Belgium 28.76
17 Estonia 27.97
18 Denmark 27.51
18 Portugal 27.51
20 Norway 27.49
21 Poland 26.83
22 Lithuania 25.47
23 Finland 25.29
24 Netherlands 25.15
25 Cyprus 25.02

Notes on the Data

Our Nobel Prize Winners were compiled from World Atlas, whilst global IQ scores were obtained from a 2012 sociological study by Lynn & Vanhanen, and our school pupil scores come from a 2015 study from Our World in Data.

Get Smart

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