New Zealand has ranked eighth in the world for education outcomes in a report by learning company Pearson.
The list was in a study called The Learning Curve, published by Pearson and carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The global index of cognitive skills and educational attainment included 40 countries with enough data to be included. It was topped by Finland, followed by South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Britain, the Netherlands and then New Zealand. Australia came in 13th, with the United States at 17th.
The aim of the report was to help policymakers, school leaders and academics identify key factors driving improved educational outcomes, Pearson said.
Although the two "education superpowers" of Finland and South Korea had different education systems, both developed high-quality teachers, valued accountability, and had a moral mission that underlay education efforts.
Expert analysis in the report suggested that the level of support for education within a surrounding culture was more important than money, Pearson said.
"While there is no doubt that money invested in education reaps rewards, cultural change around education and ambition is equally, if not more, important than income in promoting better educational outcomes."
There was also no substitute for good teachers.
"The impact of good teachers extends beyond positive educational outcomes and can be linked to positive societal factors, such as lower levels of teenage pregnancy and a greater tendency to save for retirement," the company said.
"Creating the best teachers is about more than paying a good salary. The best performing countries attract top talent, train teachers throughout their careers and allow them freedom too."
Country rankings in the report were based on data from international assessments, as well as data on literacy and school and university graduation rates.