Demographic Dividend or Liability?

Here’s an excellent article that sums up very neatly the issues that will most determine whether a vast young population will be beneficial or detrimental in India’s future:

India Knowledge @ Wharton Article

I believe the writer is correct to conclude that the determining factor between success and failure (disaster?) is education. However, he makes the mistake of focusing entirely on the needs to rectify structural defects in tertiary education, ignoring the vital importance of Primary and Secondary education. Ultimately, Universities must work with the ‘product’ of the schools. Poor school education will churn out vast numbers of youngsters who lack the core skills or desire for real learning necessary to fully benefit from a university education.

When surveying the field currently and assessing the quality of primary and secondary education available in the country, there is cause for considerable concern. The HRD Minister frequently talks of the private sector schools as just 7% of the Indian schools. However, when the small ‘bottom of the pyramid’, unofficial schools are taken in to account it’s considerably greater. Estimates suggest that potentially, as many as 35% of all Indian children are currently being educated in the private sector. Even the humble rickshaw puller would rather find the money to send his child to a private school than be dependent on the moribund government school system. Nevertheless, contrary to all the indications in Right to Education Act implementation, the future solutions lie in root and branch reform of the government schools. Plenty of money is available, but the will and motivation to deliver honestly and to a desirable quality standard has to be developed. In the meantime, overzealous social reformers must not be permitted to destroy the pockets of excellence and good work being achieved in the private sector. Bring private schools down to relieve the embarrassment of the government sector is the best way to ensure a demographic timebomb for the future in India.

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