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November 05, 2002
The Indian Miracle

Alice Bachini had some fun late last night ("People Educated Privately Should Subsidise the University Fees of People Educated by the State" - you have to scroll down, as usual with b***ger) about the British government's plans to make higher education fairer, and suggests a scheme to tax educational achievement more severely. She's joking, but I didn't really laugh, because what passes now for official, national educational debate in Britain is all about defeatist, defeated, tinkering with a failing system which is going to go on failing.

I fled from all that, to this, an article by James Tooley first published just over a year ago. What a relief.

The Indian software engineering revolution is a remarkable phenomenon. Of all IPOs in Silicon Valley, 40% have an Indian founder. Nearly a fifth of all R&D staff in American knowledge companies are Indian. These numbers are set to grow, as more and more American and European companies seek to poach Indian expertise. Within India itself, the software industry has grown at an extraordinary rate - from around $150 million in 1992 to $3.9 billion last year, a compounded annual growth rate of 61%. India is second only to the USA in the number of Microsoft Certified Professionals. Although the industry began by contracting low-end business, it is now at the high end of the industry, with US customers buying 61% of the software that Indian companies export. All of the major global telecom companies have opened R&D centres in India.

Okay, but what does this have to do with education? Well, this. The people who are responsible for this Indian economic miracle were almost entirely educated not by the Indian state education system, for this is a crumbling embarrassment. No, they were educated by the Indian education industry, which is booming.

two companies stand out in the way they have redefined education as an industry NIIT and Aptech - who together share just over 70% of this market, estimated at roughly Rs. 1.1 billion (about $20 million). Take NIIT. It has 40 wholly owned centres in the metropolitan areas, but has franchised its highly innovative model to 1,000 centres across the whole of India. And, a nice twist on global capitalist imperialism, it has expanded its operations into the USA and UK, as well as having numerous franchises in Asia and Africa.

That's right. The Indian educational private sector stands poised to rescue us Brits from our public sector.

There are advantages to being poor. A country can't afford to waste money on nationalised industries that are big enough to do serious harm. We Brits are rich. We can afford this. In India they can't.

James Tooley is one of the most important education intellectuals in the world. If you don't believe me, you need only take a look at this, a list of his last five years' worth of research into private education work around the world.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:34 AM
Category: Technology
[0]
Comments

This is fairly amazing. It's really quite a testiment to the power of free markets that something like this can emerge. At the same time, this is somewhat limited in who it can reach. The government should start issuing vouchers to parents who take their children out of school which could be spent at any private school. This would allow even the very poor to go to a good school (something which is a lot closer to a right than most commodities), whilst keeping the accountability not found in the public sector schools.

In any case, kudos to these Indian innovators.

Comment by: Lucas Wiman on November 5, 2002 07:14 AM
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