Cambridge reveals Mathematics as the highest pursued subject across the world

A study, conducted by Global Education Census 2018 by Cambridge Assessment International Education (Cambridge International) revealed that the most commonly studied subjects across the world are consistent with mathematics (cited by 88%) ranking highest in every one of the ten countries surveyed.

The next most studied subjects are as follows:

  • English 84%
  • Chemistry 65%
  • Physics:63%

However, there are some regional variations. According to the Cambridge study, in Argentina and the US, History is the third most studied subject after mathematics and English. In China, Spain and South Africa, the focus tends to be on humanities, with languages other than English representing the third most studied subject.

Students’ focus remains in STEM

According to the sample, the students of today are focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, sometimes at the expense of other favorite students prefer, including humanities.

Not pursuing what they love

The high proportion of students do not currently study their favourite subjects typically Arts and Humanities courses, according to Global Education Census 2018.

Subjects that students love to study

  • 22% Music
  • 21% Art and Design
  • 17% Drama
  • 13% English literature
  • 12% History
  • 11% Computer Science

Private Tuitions to become common in India

As per the survey, private tuition outside school is now standard across the world and in Asia students most likely to receive extra lessons. Around 57% of students in China were most likely to say they have experiences outside of their school and 55% of students in India have a private tutor or coach outside school hours. The most common privately tutored subject in the world is Maths. Around 66% of students are privately tutored for mathematics, which is followed by physics (43%).


To answer questions about the shape education should take in the future we first need to have an in-depth understanding of what education is like today, says the report.

  • This first-ever Global Education Census, by Cambridge University is a snapshot into the lives of 20,000 teachers as well as students across the world
  • The report analyses the responses to a comprehensive set of questions that cover aspects ranging from students’ favorite subjects to teacher motivations
  • By conducting this research, Cambridge International sought to understand not only what students learn, but how.
  • To share these insights as the CU explored how the education landscape is meeting the changing needs of students, parents, and teachers
  • The answers provide a wide range of unique insights about learning and teaching around the world
  • Many reflect a rapidly-changing landscape, such as the growing use of technology in teaching and learning, or the prevalence of students using private tutors
  • Other findings were unexpected, such as the number of students who do no sport in school

Finally, the survey found that students have high aspirations, with the vast majority wanting to go to university and follow prestigious career paths. The question is, how will their expectations change as new career structures evolve in the future? The report focuses on ten countries: Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Spain, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the US.

Cambridge Assessment International Education is the world’s largest provider of international education programmes and qualifications for 5 to 19-year-olds. These findings will help to inform our policy and programme development as we strive to ensure our qualifications prepare students for a competitive and global world.

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