The World's Most Literate Nations (WMLN) study, conducted by John W Miller, president of the Central Connecticut State University (CCSU), is the first to analyze large-scale trends in literate behaviour and literacy in more than 61 countries for which data was available.
Its methodology used five categories as indicators of a nation's literate health: the number of libraries, the level of newspaper readership, education inputs (meaning years of compulsory schooling and public expenditure on education), reading test scores in schools and computer availability.
Coming sixth, Switzerland was beaten only by the Nordic countries, with Finland taking the top spot followed by Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Sweden.
While it scored relatively badly for the number of libraries (ranking 32), Switzerland came fourth in the newspaper category, which assessed the per capita number of paid-for daily newspapers, issues printed and news websites.
It came 15th in computer availability, which ranked the percentage of households owning a desktop or laptop computer, 16th in test scores and 11th in education inputs.
In a statement, Miller said: “The power of literacy and the value of being part of a literate world is often taken for granted.”
“The factors we examined present a complex and nuanced portrait of a nation's cultural vitality.”
According to the Swiss federal statistics office, only 13.8 percent of women and 10.2 percent of men in Switzerland do not pursue further education beyond compulsory schooling.
The majority complete compulsory education at a state school, with only around five percent attending a private school.
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), annual public spending on education in Switzerland is among the highest of OECD countries, spending $17 per student compared with the OECD average of $10 per student.
The WMLN rankings would be very different if test scores were the only indicators used, said Miller.
“The Pacific Rim countries, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, and China, would top the list if test performance was the only measure. Finland would be the only non-Pacific Rim country to rank high.”
“When factors such as library size and accessibility are added in, the Pacific Rim nations drop dramatically,” he said.