Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Gazing into the crystal ball again: India and China

America may have more to worry about than debates about the best way to deliver instruction. My personal opinion is that vouchers, tax credits and arguments over private or public delivery models will have little impact on improving the status of the American economy any time soon. But, the business roundtable has done a very deft job of shifting attention to American public schools. Interestingly enough, the increasingly popular American solution appears to be to abandon "government" public schools and to decentralize everything as a way to improve. This is where it gets interesting to me. You see, the nations that are making the most noise right now with an increasing economic presence in the world, are not abandoning their government's central role in their education system, they are increasing it.

American business folks need to be careful, they may get exactly what they ask for. Decentralized schooling where anything goes. I may hate NCLB, but that is because of the overemphasis on standardized testing and the irrational and illogical methods of determining success. I still believe that a country as diverse as America MUST have a coordinated system of assimilating immigrants and others into our country. There is nothing wrong with a government system of schooling. Depends on what they teach! Let's not give up the debate about what the curriculum should look like by just saying, "Forget it, just privatize it and all will be well."

That might be throwing the baby out with the bath water.

There is a regular reader here who goes by the moniker "old retired business man." I have always enjoyed his comments even when I don't agree. He indicates he has traveled in India and China and is impressed with the desire and work ethic of those he has met there. Their students are hungry. Ours seem satisfied.

"Old retired business man" reports that India and China seem to have little care or attention for many students who are left behind or who aren't educated. To many of us in America, myself included, that seems unfortunate and short-sighted, but that's not their current worry. Their agenda is to lead the world economically and politically. They have the raw materials and they have the population. What they need are enough engineers and highly educated people to get the job done. They may be on their way.

Now India and China indicate that they are laying aside some of their own differences and are going to cooperate. This may get interesting. One-third of the world's population is accounted for in this new alliance.

As the "old retired business man" says, " It may be time to invest in the emerging markets."


At Tuesday, April 12, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good column!!! More people need to pay attention to what is going on in other countries vs what is going on in ours. I think we have a lot to learn...or lose..


At Friday, April 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is important to remember that while India and China are cooperating economically, these regional powers will also become more and more competitive with each other. They both want to expand their regional influence as it is a necessary step in the progress for each nation as they strive to take their place on the world's stage.

Much as the United States took a step along its progress toward being the regional hegemon in the Western Hemisphere with the Monroe Doctrine, these countries are following similar paths in exercising their regional power with this agreement.

I think that there should also be some important words of caution as Stephen P. Cohen from the Brookings Institute mentions in the article. These regional powers as they begin to grow will face more and more pressure from within and also from each other to become the SOLE power in their region. Their styles of government are in conflict, which can mean as much disruption (for the same reasons) in relations as the U.S. currently experiences at times with China.

An alliance such as the one just agreed to definitely holds great potential for the participants. I believe, however, that it will be just as intricate and difficult to live out in reality as one between China and the U.S. would be.

Just think if Panama was the same size and had the same worldwide influence as America has. Now imagine that country being run by Krushchev. How much fun would that be for us? Heck, we can not even live with Cuba so close to us. China and India are in a similar position now. The potential is great, but their competition for regional hegemony will get in their way of full cooperation. While their agreement toward cooperation is important and positive for the world as a whole, it is important to take that with a large grain of "international relations" salt.

Maybe, one day, we can all look forward to sending our children to Bangalore for a "proper" education? Certainly we can learn from India and China, and I think that a hybrid, which takes both methods of running a public education system into account would be quite exciting.

-- a history major


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