In the late 1940s, both India and China started to build their education structure. It can be said that both countries, pressured by political circumstances, were at the same level of development at that time. However today, the scenario is much different. China, some experts believe, has risen above India in various fields. Education is one of them. Questions arise – Is India really lagging behind China in education? Does India need to better its educational structure following China’s example? Let’s try and answer these!

First of all, let’s rule out a few things like the number of globally recognized higher education institutions, literacy rate, and total annual research output – as in these cases, China has left India way behind.

Following the Cultural Revolution in China, in the mid-1960s, the educational structure was made democratic as earlier it was dominated by the elite upper class. The Cultural Revolution in China resulted in mass literacy. But India kept its eye on higher education since it was freed from British rule. India focused on primary education only in the 1980s by which time China had already reached its gross enrollment rate in basic education.

In the mid-1980s, both India and China were standing at 40% literacy when it came to secondary education enrollment. It goes without saying that in this case too China won the race owing to its mass primary education enrollment which India had just started working on. In 2017, while India could only enroll 79% of its population in the secondary level, China was already at 99%.

Till now, we were only delving into access to education. When it comes to literacy rate, the scenario is worse for India. China ranks 40 in the literacy and numeracy indicator for the population between 15-24 years. In the same, India is at the 104th position.

Both India and China are resourceful in terms of population. Thus both countries have topped the charts for the number of higher education degree holders. But when compared to the total population, only 10% hold higher education degrees in China and 8% do the same in India. Thus both countries have not been able to give its population equal access to higher education.

Rankings and recognition from international bodies have confirmed that differences in the educational scenario in China and India. Seven universities from China have made it to the top 200s in the Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2019. No Indian university has found a place. The Tsinghua University of China is now the best university in Asia beating the National University of Singapore.

OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment revealed in 2015 that Chinese children aged 15 years scored even better than the set standard. In fact, it was found out that one in every 4 students in China is an expert in Mathematics. Chinese students could also beat students from all other countries in financial literacy. On the other hand, the Annual Status of Education Report in India revealed that only half of the rural youth of India, aged between 14-18 years, are capable of leading productive lives. Many of the youth surveyed could not read English sentences or do basic arithmetic or financial calculations.

Even when it comes to international enrollment, China was able to enroll 292,611 foreign students from 194 different countries in 2011 while India could only welcome 46,144 students.

It is clear that China has not only progressed economically but also has its education system. India is surely losing the game here. So why is India lagging behind China in terms of education? One of the major reasons behind this is the fact that Chinese educational schemes are structured keeping in mind the international ranking systems. Secondly, the publications drive in China is way more than that in India. China had made an early start with basic education and in India, a lot of work still needs to be done in improving its primary education system. India needs to focus on skills that are imparted in students at an early age. Only this will provide a solid foundation for the betterment of the educational sphere in India.