It’s education, stupid

Nicholas Kristof in an op-ed in the New York Times asks:

Quick, what’s the source of America’s greatness?

Is it a tradition of market-friendly capitalism? The diligence of its people? The cornucopia of natural resources? Great presidents?

No, a fair amount of evidence suggests that the crucial factor is our school system — which, for most of our history, was the best in the world but has foundered over the last few decades.

As I wrote in 2001, “The most devastating impact of our dismal educational system is that we are condemning ourselves to a future of exceedingly low economic development. If there is one thing that growth and developmental economists have learnt, it is this: education is the most important factor in economic growth. Education has more impact on economic growth than natural resources, foreign investment, exports, imports, whatever. Neglect education and you may as well hang yourself and save yourself the pain of a slow miserable death.” [Link.]

Do the movers and shakers of the Indian state understand that fundamental point? Apparently not because precious little is being done about it. Instead of sending silly probes to the moon, the nation should be dedicated to figuring out what to do about the education system. Anyway, barely educated people cannot be reasonably expected to fully comprehend the value of education.

Indian Reforms

Pranab Bardhan on why any Indian government’s claim that it supports reforms is not credible:

. . . it is anomalous to expect reform to be carried out by an administrative setup that for many years has functioned as an inert heavy-handed, corrupt, over-centralized, and uncoordinated monolith. Economic reform is about competition and incentives, and a governmental machinery that does not itself allow them in its own internal organization is an unconvincing proponent or carrier of that message.

India’s Colleges are Suffering

One of the persistent themes of this blog is the dismal failure of the education system. There is a direct relationship between the excellence of the educational system — human skills — and the broad performance of the economy. So even without knowing much about an economy, if you find the economy in dire straits, you can as a reasonable hypothesis maintain that the educational system may be dysfunctional.
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