Atanu Dey On India's Development

It’s education, stupid

Nicholas Kristof in an op-ed in the New York Times asks:

Quick, what’s the source of America’s greatness?

Is it a tradition of market-friendly capitalism? The diligence of its people? The cornucopia of natural resources? Great presidents?

No, a fair amount of evidence suggests that the crucial factor is our school system — which, for most of our history, was the best in the world but has foundered over the last few decades.

As I wrote in 2001, “The most devastating impact of our dismal educational system is that we are condemning ourselves to a future of exceedingly low economic development. If there is one thing that growth and developmental economists have learnt, it is this: education is the most important factor in economic growth. Education has more impact on economic growth than natural resources, foreign investment, exports, imports, whatever. Neglect education and you may as well hang yourself and save yourself the pain of a slow miserable death.” [Link.]

Do the movers and shakers of the Indian state understand that fundamental point? Apparently not because precious little is being done about it. Instead of sending silly probes to the moon, the nation should be dedicated to figuring out what to do about the education system. Anyway, barely educated people cannot be reasonably expected to fully comprehend the value of education.

  • rishi

    I don’t see how sending a probe to the moon has any co-relation with solving our education problems.

    I agree that our education system is badly broken, and needs major reforms. However, stopping the moon mission is not going to help in any appreciable way.

  • pankaj

    Rishi ,why does india spend on moon probes when the money is needed here on earth maybe you personally dont need it, but look at the child beggars and then if u have eyes that can truly see and mind that thinks then u will know that it is better to educate that children and give them a better life,rather than unwise space programmes,USA first made life comfortable for its citizens before thinking about space thats why it is successful and india is not.We have misplaced priorities.

  • http://clueso.wordpress.com clueso

    I agree with Rishi on the fact that sending moon probes should not be sacrificed for the course of “improving education for the masses”.

    It is about the division of labour, we have one bunch of people who are in charge of sending probes to the moon and another bunch who are in charge of providing a good education system. The moon probe guys are exceedingly good at their job and the education system guys are dismal at theirs. Denying the moon probe guys money and funnelling it to the education guys is a case of rewarding the mediocre at the expense of the good and it does not bode well for either of the groups in question.

    Handing more money to a group of people who are not doing a good enough job with what they have will not solve much. A better idea would be for the government to get the hell out of regulating education(as Atanu has said often) and maybe allow the moon probe guys to take over the management of that job instead. Maybe then we will have a good education system AND be sending probes to the moon.

    One should not judge a scientific expedition purely by its primary goal. Very often secondary requirements by themselves are so complex that they generate innovative and practical technologies. In my opinion, it is important to unleash those who are brilliant and then try to use them to either mend or create a system that would allow more achievers to flourish.

  • ram

    Atanu,
    Rather amusing that when the west was doing the big bang (LHC) test at the cost of 4 billion dollars you didnt find them wrong but The *Indian* moon probe is apparently “silly”.

    Can you say that the west has zero education problems , zero hunger issues and they can afford to blow off any amount on a test that may find nothing.

    IMHO this is a Indian mentality problem. We, do not in general, appreciate the value of research. That is why the advanced nations continue to bully us to buy their technology ,whether it is is a nuclear reactor or a factory filter. We don’t spend on research , so we end up spending much more on buying later.

    Ofcourse, your concerns regarding the education systems are well placed, but we dont have the resources to tackle it. Our Netas can sanction all the billions for educating the poor but the outcome can never be guaranteed. We need to monitor every scheme and this has to be technology driven. Probably satellite images(from chandrayaan-3 ??) can tell us exactly how many rural schemes are running (with teachers) and how many just exist on papers that our babus’ present to us.
    Traditional methods are unreasonably inadequate.

  • http://idlinginc.blogspot.com idlinginc

    “That is why the advanced nations continue to bully us to buy their technology ,whether it is is a nuclear reactor or a factory filter. We don’t spend on research , so we end up spending much more on buying later.”

    Ram.. This has nothing to do with *mentality*. Politicians make a ton of money by doing these deals. They can’t make money by hiring a bunch of sorry looking researchers.

  • Vikramh

    ‘Silly’ moon probes? It’s a demonstration of ability and competence which is crucial in science, research and technology. Extremely disappointing to see that being linked with our inability to come up with a better education system.

  • anuj

    Ram – “Rather amusing that when the west was doing the big bang (LHC) test at the cost of 4 billion dollars you didnt find them wrong but The *Indian* moon probe is apparently “silly”.”

    Are you serious? Do you know the per capita income of the Western countries which are involved in the experiment?

  • prateeksha

    couldnt agree more with ram

  • prateeksha

    though i feel the satellite monitoring thing is a little stretched

  • DChandra

    I agree. How could the stupid uneducated bumpkins even think of sending a spacecraft to the moon – that too at such low cost! May be they can try it after they, and everybody else gets, some education…illiterate Indians!