The Indian Economy Blog

March 1, 2009

Weekend Reading: 28 Feb, 2009

Filed under: Basic Questions,Education,Links,Outsourcing — Prashant @ 12:30 am

The Hidden Flaws In China And India Schools: Jay Mathews in the Washington Post says that “India and China, despite their economic successes, have public education systems that are, in many ways, a sham.”

India: Toward High-End Outsourcing: Vivek Wadhwa in Business Week claims that “companies on the Subcontinent (are taking) the outsourcing industry to a new level of expertise and competitiveness”. Well, with the rupee’s recent fall, presumably even low-end outsourcing is very attractive :-)

The Rise Of Delhi: Suman Bery has an interesting piece in the Business Standard on “the increasing range and intensity of accessible, close to world-class public discourse on issues of public policy on a very broad range of subjects” in Delhi. I suspect that this trend may well accelerate. I certainly don’t see anything remotely close to this in Chennai (during my quarterly visits).


  1. Interesting list. Was wondering if anyone has read Happionaire’s Cash The Crash, Yogesh Chabria? This is one book I’m really looking forward to read. It looks like the most relevant book today.

    Comment by Deepak — March 4, 2009 @ 6:15 pm

  2. Here are two useful articles that further discuss the shortcomings of both India’s and China’s educational systems. They are from a special report on China and India that BusinessWeek did in 2005. A bit dated, but interesting read.

    Comment by Suresh Dalai — March 4, 2009 @ 8:07 pm

  3. There are debates and discussions in various forums in Chennai as in large cities that can support such activities profitably. They may not be as accessible to some and Delhi probably has many more of these. Are they world-class? I wouldn’t know as I am not that highly educated or well-read.

    Still, if you search there are stimulating, intimate forums on science, math, music and art. On the latter two, the city has much to offer.

    Over time, I forecast it will grow and improve as education spreads, aided by the internet as a platform that makes sharing of ideas on applications such as twitter, blogs, social networking tools, Youtube, search engines easy. The coming generations will be the ones to watch, in Chennai as elsewhere. I see a blurring of differentials in 2-3 decades.

    Comment by little ram — March 21, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  4. Articles of this kind on the public education system in India are not very useful or accurate. I wouldn’t be able to comment on China or the US.

    Why would Jay Mathews assume that it is only the
    public education system that is relevant for comparison with the US system is not clear to me.

    For one, I agree that we need many more generations of investment in education (public and private) to begin to make an impact. We have had only 3 or so since independence. My only evidence for the quality of education in the US is the huge output of scientific research, technological development and innovation in liberal/ fine arts. So going by that alone, surely India has a long way to go. I am not going to argue with this.

    If output of creative work has to be the only criterion for judging education systems, that would be incorrect. There are other social and economic enabling factors that also play a part. This is much too complex to go into here.

    I think the evidence is clear that no matter how flawed, we do have good talent and fine minds coming out of India too. Maybe we are yet to get to the level of world-class research in many fields, but we do have some very good talent even if the quantity is limited. Part of the lack of advancement in research is also due to economic compulsions of having to earn one’s livelihood. I know many people including my father who have had to suspend their dreams midway for this very reason.

    Jay Mathews in quoting Tooley seems to juxtapose some (five-star?) exclusive, international-aid supported private schools (observed while staying at 5-star hotels?/!) against some badly run municipal schools. This misses out a whole swathe of private and public schools in the middle. I find this confusing. My father is the product of a well-run Govt. school in his village and went on to do a masters in Chemistry, getting to do some significant work for his time. I studied in a Central Govt. run school system and even if I haven’t created any world-beating technology or ideas, I think the school served me reasonably well. Certainly there is no comparison to the schools Tooley talks about, with teachers absent, etc. My children have gone to private schools that are not aided, or expensive or particularly exclusive.

    So to say that the entire public education system is a sham is way off the mark. It is badly and seriously flawed, but it is not a sham. I gave some specific near-to-home examples, but there are others like the Kendriya Vidyalayas, the Navyodayas, and other initiatives. In some states, the state primary schooling is half-decent.

    Yes, Jay Mathews is right in asserting that they would never trade their schools for ours. There is no comparison possible. However, he has a very superficial understanding of India at any rate and he is decidedly wrong in characterizing the education system as a ‘sham’. I would grant that Jay Mathews sitting far way is entitled to his limited perspective given his limited objective.

    For an Indian living here, it is not. For instance, it is easy for me to be superior and talk of poor administration and the failure of public policy. It is a lot more difficult to implement things on the ground where you have to contend with the teachers’ needs for a decent standard of living, educational opportunities for their offspring, availability of healthcare, proper facilities and aids for teaching.

    What would really help is for someone (admittedly not Jay Mathews or Tooley) to attempt a proper diagnosis and prescribe a series of policy and administrative measures that will improve our public schooling.

    IEB must move on to get this dialogue going with persons more knowledgeable than I to add real value to public discourse.

    Comment by little ram — March 21, 2009 @ 4:17 pm

  5. I agree with the saying that it is easy to talk about poor administration and education policies but it is very difficult to regulate those ‘Ideal’ policies in practical seeing the political and local level interference apart from the business interests.

    Comment by Adv. Pragmaticoutsourcing — April 19, 2009 @ 2:51 pm

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