Can Universities in India and China Be the Education Powerhouses in the 21st Century?By Beth Golden, UniversityHerald Reporter
It is said that we have now entered into the Asian Century and when we talk about Asian dominance, we cannot exclude China and India who have advantage in terms of population and economy. One of the challenges these giants face is improving and developing the quality of higher education since highly educated - trained and competent people are needed to meet the constant demands of economic growth.
China first overtook the US by having the world's largest economy in 2014. While America constantly struggles to regain its economic supremacy and China has other troubles of its own, the Chinese economy consistently advances and firmly locks itself on top one industry at a time.
Forbes predict China's economy will be more significant than the U.S.'s in 2018.
Early this year, India overtook the China as the world's fastest growing economy. Macroeconomic projections from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that India will be the 3rd largest economy by 2030.
In order to sustain current economic growth and attain even bigger ones, these Asian countries are going to have to support higher education even more. This year's World University Rankings (2016-2017) shows that the National University of Singapore holds the highest spot, at number 24 with China's leader universities trailing not far behind.
Two of China's flagship universities were able to break into the top 30 and top 40 list this year. Peking University, one of the world's top institutions for technology and engineering goes a few notches up to number 29 from 42nd last year. While Tsinghua University leaps to the 35th spot from 40 the previous year.
India's Indian Institute of Science (IIS) trails a little farther behind entering the 201st-250th bracket this year.
While the Chinese government has taken to heart driving educational reforms, India, as observed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, failed to "to learn from the examples of so-called Asian economic development, in which rapid expansion of human capability is both a goal in itself and an integral element in achieving rapid growth."
Sen also observed that the general education system in India is a mess and further noted that "The general improvement that we notice in China (as far as I have been able to observe) is not really replicated in India - at least, not noticeably so, except perhaps in education for engineering of various kinds, in which many of the Indian Institutes of Technology [IITs] have flourished, at least in teaching, though less so in research."
In terms of research, China and India are gradually closing in on Japan, Asia's traditional research powerhouse. China extensively fund its leading research-intensive institutions. The government also influences the direction of universities research and development.
Experts point out India's challenges in catching up. One is the government, China's centralized system allows it to act faster while Indian bureaucrats are caught up in debates. Another is comparative poverty.
Reducing poverty and enabling prosperity, spreading it so that citizens will have access to reformed education - from the most basic to higher learning is crucial to improve not just the quality of life but the quality of education for generations to come.