Amanda Ripley

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Most Boring Country in the World?

18th Mar 2013 posted in Education

During my recent obsession with tracking kids’ boredom on Twitter, I’ve naturally been wondering which country has the most bored kids.

Of course, this is hard to find out—for about a thousand reasons, most of which are boring. But the closest thing I’ve seen to an imperfect answer comes from the OECD’s 2002 Education at a Glance report. The survey asked 15-year-olds around the world if they “often felt bored” at school. It’s worth noting that “often” and “bored” are words with very different definitions depending on the culture you live in…but let’s play along for now just for kicks.

Across the developed world, 1 out of every 2 students (48%) said they often felt bored at school.

But that was just the average. The percentages varied quite a bit from place to place. The most boring country? Well, of the 32 nations in the study, Ireland took last place—with 67% teenagers reporting that they often felt bored. Greece and Spain did just about as badly. In the U.S., 61% of high schoolers said they often felt bored—not the worst, but above average relative to the rest of the globe.

Oddly, Portugal fared best, with only 24% of 15-year-olds claiming to be frequently bored. There seemed to be no correlation between a country’s overall education outcomes and the boredom index. For example, countries with teenagers who dramatically outperform our own on tests of critical thinking in math, reading and science (Finland, Canada and Australia, to name a few), have just about as many bored kids, relatively speaking.

The full report is not easily available online (though you can see the relevant chart if you search “bored” in this document.) A more friendly version that includes fewer countries is here.