Consistent China, Inconsistent India
Thumb sailer
February 29, 2008, 12:20 PM
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There`s a new Rand Corporation report out, "Education and the Asian Surge," comparing the educational systems in the two giga-countries, China and India. The report doesn`t have much on actual outcomes (e.g., internationally normed achievement test scores) so it relies on nominal outputs (# of graduates) and inputs (spending), but it`s still interesting because, well, because it`s about China and India and they`re important.

Many of the findings on schooling are paradoxical. For example, China`s schools are almost all public, but they are heavily paid for privately (by parents paying tuition), while India`s schools tend to be more private, but they`re almost all paid for by the government.

As I wrote in in 2004 in "Interesting India, Competitive China," India`s system was long more elitist, with higher illiteracy rates but more top colleges, while China`s was more egalitarian, with schooling being more widespread, but not much in the way of higher education. (Of course, the Chinese didn`t have much schooling at all in 1966-1976 due to Mao`s Cultural Revolution, so it`s amazing that they`ve been able to overcome that.)

Both countries are now trying to backfill their weaknesses, and it looks like China has a sturdier base to build on. China now has a higher percentage of its young adults in college than India does. Lower level schooling in India is sapped by teacher absenteeism — on any given day, 25% of the school teachers don`t show up for work. India seems to be very erratic — excellence and slipshodness side by side.

In general, I suspect that 21st Century China`s consistency and India`s inconsistency are tied back to ancient marriage patterns that increased the homogeneity of the Chinese while the Indian caste system split the subcontinent up into tens of thousands of endogamous groups.