There have been limited empirical studies on the varieties of education models. This paper applies clustering analysis to classify 59 education systems in the world into clusters based on their institutional arrangements (or regimes). Using a data set obtained from the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA) survey in 2015, we discover three main findings on the varieties of education models. (1) There are approximately five to eight clusters of education regimes. Among these, there are three top-performing clusters in the PISA test—namely, those focusing on test-based accountability (exemplified by Singapore), those focusing on teacher empowerment and educational equity (exemplified by Finland), and those focusing on school choices and competition (exemplified by the Netherlands). Rather than being grouped in a single top-scoring club, high-scoring education systems belong to different regimes. Thus, there are many pathways to education excellence. (2) Not all systems in the top-performing clusters have high test scores. In fact, many are doing not so well and have many challenges. Thus, policymakers should be aware that no formula of institutional arrangement can guarantee success. To adopt good practices from other countries, policymakers must analyze the strengths and weakness of their own systems and understand the conditions for successful adoption. (3) There is no clear-cut “East Asian model,” consisting mainly of East Asian countries. This implies that East Asian education regimes are not truly distinct from others. Thus, the rise of East Asia to the top of the PISA league table illustrates diversity rather than a single-best model. Our study on the varieties of education models provides policymakers with two main options for education reform. An important question is whether to improve their education systems under existing regimes or to transform them into new regimes. The leaders in the same clusters can provide lessons for improving the current systems by adjusting a few practices. Meanwhile, leaders in other clusters can provide examples for transforming into new regimes.

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