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THE VIEW FROM PAEONIAN SPRINGS
While We Were Sleeping...
India has emerged as an education giant.

by Michael H. Thomson
January 2, 2008

This morning while scanning the headlines of several newspapers I read online, I came across a front-page story in the New York Times entitled, "Losing an Edge, Japanese Envy India's Schools." The article said that Japan is having a "crisis in confidence" about its ability to compete with Asian rivals China and India. Japanese parents are worried that their children will get second-rate jobs because of what they view as inferior education received by their children in math and science with particular emphasis on computer technology. So they are turning to Indian private schools (which is now a growth industry in Japan) to make up the difference.
 
Bookstores are filled with titles like "Extreme Indian Arithmetic Drills" and "The Unknown Secrets of the Indians." Newspapers carry reports of Indian children memorizing multiplication tables far beyond nine times nine, the standard for young elementary students in Japan.
 
What is amazing to me about all of this is that Japan was once known as one of the world's most racist countries. They looked down and scorned their Asian neighbors whom they considered inferior. Now as Japan finds itself losing its technological advantage, it turns to India for help in educating its young. Again, from this morning's NYT article:
 
While China has stirred more concern here as a political and economic challenger, India has emerged as the country to beat in a more benign rivalry over education. In part, this reflects China's image in Japan as a cheap manufacturer and technological imitator. But India's success in software development, Internet businesses and knowledge-intensive industries in which Japan has failed to make inroads has set off more than a tinge of envy.
 
In 1963, I should have seen this coming. At that time, I was a student at the University of Tennessee and lived in a rooming house that was populated mostly by Indian engineering students. Their focus on the value of a good education was a good deal sharper than mine was. Over the years, India, not content to continue shipping their students abroad, has developed their education system to one of the finest in the world. This from a July,2007 edition of Time magazine:
 
Google, Microsoft and General Electric came to Santa Clara, Calif., last weekend, and all but begged graduates of one of the world's top engineering schools to work for them. Google spent $200,000 to be the lead sponsor of the four-day-long reunion of 3,500 alumni. Microsoft's research center in Hyderabad came calling. The CEO of GE, Jeff Immelt, already employs 1,500 graduates and says he needs more. Stanford? MIT? Harvard? Nope. This was a gathering of graduates of the Indian Institutes of Technology.
 
I wake up each morning at five o'clock to National Public Radio which I lovingly call National People's Radio in a reference to their slightly left of center approach to the news. Having said that, NPR has some great, well-researched pieces, which you won't hear anywhere else. Recently they did a segment on Indian animators in the movie industry. Animation is a highly precise technology that once was owned exclusively by Hollywood and Disney. Now it seems that India is playing an increasing role in the production of animated entertainment including computer games. This from Rediff.com:
 
India's animation sector is witnessing a major boom. Overseas entertainment giants like Walt Disney, Imax and Sony are increasingly outsourcing cartoon characters and special effects to India. Other companies are outsourcing animation from India for commercials and computer games.
 
 
I am not going to editorialize on the state of American education compared to India except to say that for some reason we are suddenly being ignored…
 
Until next time…


About the Author:
Mike Thomson got through required college math with the assistance of an Indian tutor who was also a housemate in his college rooming house.


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