Education (part I): Nation’s challenge to keep pace in a tight race

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New Jersey – It is every parent’s wish for kids to have a college education for success as a family goal. A good education is a ticket for kids to an ultimate freedom that could be a hit or miss for parents. What is important for a location in business, education holds a similar significance in a nation’s identity on the world map.

 The US remained on the forefront of the education tide for the past century, but finds herself now caught in the ebb & faltering behind many nations around the world. American investments in education were more business-like than a social agenda to develop national wealth patiently through planting the tree and nurturing it until spring arrives. Investing in tools through super budgets has limited the utility value, rather than creating well-nurtured students who could add to the progress & productivity of a nation for a long time to come.

The education system in any nation works more like an economic engine, which would take a long time to build with the right parts and is even more difficult to turn around in search of the right direction. While comparing current performance with other BRICS nations, especially China and India, one must remember that they have paved their way through hurdles with sheer hard work only. So when our experts take an approach of acknowledging their achievement like – “When it was Finland who was winning, it wasn’t such a concern. Now that our K-12 students are being outperformed academically by China and India — the two highest populated countries in the world with the fastest growing economies and with cultures that embrace intellectual challenge — it is cause for serious concern.” – it is more like we never had them on our education radar as an equal contestant or tried to study their systems very seriously.

They are both premier cultures of the old world which went through many convulsions during history, but are now ready to make a comeback with their cultural riches that the world can’t ignore. They are not a fluke story of success, but trailblazers to show the shining path even in adversity. It is now our opportunity to grab the challenge as a gift from old civilizations to the new.

We see in America a vast number of learning institutions which were built in the past century. It helped us to achieve a number one status on quality & destination for college education around the world. It gave us a wrong notion on quality dynamics in education, that it is made out of shear size and number of grand institutions which we could market around. In reality, it was all about the kind of students we admit to the program versus the package we produced. We were lucky that the US could attract very bright students – the cream of the crop from all corners of the world for many decades and it helped us to create a very productive lot of citizens to maintain our ranking in education. The equation is changing now. Many nations are coming of age and fewer bright students are leaving the shores of their home country. America is missing that soul in the grand design of the concrete jungle.

The size of the combined population of the world’s two most populous nations, India and China, is 2.3 billion people & growing. They will produce 400+ million students in K-12 grades, while the US is kept at a distance with close to 50 million students. It does not stop there; the learning standards are very high in the subjects of mathematics & science in India (also in China) – a cultural dividend. It is high enough for an average US student that they would fall behind about two grades before catching up to their level.

It is hard to dissect the differences in such a multifold problem in one segment, but we need to start somewhere with serious introspection. 

Kirit Desai
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Kirit Desai  had post graduate degrees from India & USA both - in multiple disciplines. After spending almost 30 years in R & D (as Research Scientist) and research management at a prestigeous Ivy League University, moved into Financial field for past decade & enjoys reading/writing in international business, politics, sports and science/technology. He lives in Delaware valley near Philadelphia.

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