The Economist, last week, had an editorial on the poor state of India's schools. It begins:
"In 1931 Mahatma Gandhi ridiculed the idea that India might have universal primary education “inside of a century”. He was too pessimistic. Since 1980 the share of Indian teenagers who have had no schooling has fallen from about half to less than one in ten. That is a big, if belated, success for the country with more school-age children, 260m, than any other.
Yet India has failed these children. Many learn precious little at school. India may be famous for its elite doctors and engineers, but half of its nine-year-olds cannot do a sum as simple as eight plus nine. Half of ten-year-old Indians cannot read a paragraph meant for seven-year-olds. At 15, pupils in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh are five years behind their (better-off) peers in Shanghai. The average 15-year-old from these states would be in the bottom 2% of an American class. With few old people and a falling birth rate, India has a youth bulge: 13% of its inhabitants are teenagers, compared with 8% in China and 7% in Europe. But if its schools remain lousy, that demographic dividend will be wasted. ..."
If you think these stats are bleak, you probably shouldn't read any more as the story gets worse when teachers are considered. In fact, there seemed no positive news at all, which probably explains a drift to cheap private schools. When it comes to a quality education, getting children to school in the first place can be a huge challenge; India shows that deciding what to do once they are there can be equally problematic.