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INFOCUS | INDIA-CHINA | EDUCATION

Catching up with China on education %\YLUWXHRIDKLJKHUOLWHUDF\UDWH&KLQDLVDEOHWRZLHOGJUHDWHULQĂ€XHQFH in the world order compared to India. If India wants to seize opportunities in the new millennium, it will have to overhaul its education system Amir Ullah Khan

T

he discussion on education today is dominated by several views expressed on the use of technology in improving the quality of educational institutions. The debate on quality is indeed serious today and it is time we delve into some real issues that concern education in India and China, at both the elementary and secondary levels as well as in the Universities. There is also a serious concern about quantity. We are not able to provide education to those who demand it, despite the constitutional guarantees under the Right to Education Act in India. With the population of the young and adolescents on a steady rise, this paucity in supply is indeed a serious matter that education ministers should look into

rather than pandering to some vague perceptions of threat to local culture and language. The comparison between India and China is an interesting one. While India scores high by way of its English speaking population and its English medium education, China outnumbers India everywhere else. The literacy rate in China is 92% and average years at school are nearly 12, as a nine -year education is compulsory by law and the attendance in primary schools is 99%. In India, the literacy rates are yet to reach 65%, and though the Right to Education Act makes 8-years of education compulsory but is hardly able to achieve half the target and the attendance in schools is never more than 70%. Nearly 70% of all high school graduates in China attend University, while

|12| India-China Chronicle ƒ September 2013

the figure for India is at best 15%. China has nearly 2000 Universities while India has a little more than 650. The world economy has been transformed in the last few decades. Investments move seamlessly across continents as sentiment shifts happen almost overnight and trace emerging patterns of growth and development. This has resulted in a pressure on the services sector, and particularly on the knowledge economy to provide the human resource required in this changed world. While the manufacturing sector has changed beyond recognition with transportation and communication getting revolutionized and a services sector that does not respect legacy and tradition, the world demands a rethinking in skilling and training. How has the education sector responded to

this challenge? Is the University system that has worked so well in the past ready to address these new concerns? What role do China and India play in this new world order? The emphasis in recent days has moved from the Global to the ‘Glocal’. The term ‘Glocal’ is relatively new. It was popularized in the nineties in business literature just as the term globalization had seen its heyday in the eighties. According to Erik  Swyngedouw, Glocalisation, as described in Globalization or ‘glocalisation’? Networks, territories and rescaling. Cambridge review of International Affairs, 2004;,  refers to activities where institutional and regulatory arrangements

shift from the national scale upwards to both supra-national and global scale.   The end of the cold war signaled the beginning of an unprecedented pace of globalization as firms revisited the concepts of comparative advantages and started turning into multinational or transnational companies. Leveraging raw material from one continent, labor from another, processing facilities in a third and packaging in yet another location, the manufacturing world has turned production into a global logistics exercise. Globalization had indeed arrived and its fierce flow has led to the demolition of the most forceful symbol of a bipolar world, the Berlin wall. The estimate is that there will be 50

In an interesting forecast, it is said that 40% of today’s children will work in occupations that do not even exist at the moment. For example, nearly a hundred thousand youngsters today work on designing mobile phone applications, a skill that neither exLVWHGQRUZDVFRQWHPSODWHGHYHQÀYH\HDUVDJR

million new entrants in the work force in India in the next five years while the deficit for the rest of the world where populations are shrinking is about 36 million. Another rather exaggerated estimate is that India needs to skill 500 million people in the next few years. The Planning Commission and the various ministries of labour and that of rural development are projecting these figures. Whatever be the number, the fact is that a large number of people need to be skilled, some in traditional ways and most so as to be able to handle a new and transforming work culture and landscape. Both India and China are together in understanding that today’s education challenges are actually quite different and difficult. The countries have a unique advantage with their large populations. India in fact is the world’s youngest country, with an average age of 25 years and 65 % of the population is below the age of 35. Therefore, it is critical that students get trained to handle international

September 2013 ƒ India-China Chronicle |13|


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