The American Centre for Progress has in a study titled, ‘The Competition that really matters — Comparing US, Chinese and Indian investments in the Next Generation workforce’ warned that “both China and India are closing the gap with the US on the proportion of the world’s college graduates”. It urges the next US President to look at ways to ensure “that all American children have the opportunity to become high-skilled workers prepared to compete in a global economy”.
The report points out that while numerous educational challenges stand in the way of developing nations, India and China by harnessing their demographic dividend will soon match the US in the number of skilled workers competing in globally-mobile industries. While China is taking a clear lead, India is not so far behind either, the report suggests running through various Indian educational programmes like the Mid Day Meal, Right to Education and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan.
“Even if India only applies a modestly more intensive effort to increase educational access, it will produce twice the number of college graduates than the US is able to produce annually...To be sure, life for most children in India remains hard, with the World Bank estimating that 40 per cent of Indian families live on $1.25 a day or less. But their lot is improving as India executes its national education strategy..India’s education system faces challenges, but its progress in educational access and attainment has put it on a path to be one of the world’s strongest economic powers,” predicts the study.
The report tracks the ‘dramatic turnaround’ staged in education by India through increased public investment — from $11 billion a year in the late 1980s to $44 billion in 2008. Anticipating an even huger investment being pushed into the education sector in India over the 12th plan period, the study says that the Planning Commission’s successive five year plans are ushering in the “sort of progress that should make the rest of the world sit up and take notice”.
It notes that from 2000 to 2008, the annual pace of new science, technology, engineering and mathematics- or STEM- degree awards from four year colleges in the US increased by 24 per cent while China sprinted ahead with a 218 per cent rise in the same period, India trebled its bachelor-equivalent degrees in these disciplines.
On the US education scenario, the report notes the absence of a national strategy in the US on increasing early childhood education, the increasing problem of obesity in children affecting their learning abilities and the increasing post secondary school drop out rate.