Murphy's Law: The Chinese Edge Over South Asia

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June 14, 2013: A major cause of poverty in South Asia (mainly Pakistan and India) is the lack of education, especially for younger children. In both countries corruption is common in the existing public education system, with many teaching and administrative jobs in schools considered patronage (to be given to supporters of politicians, not qualified teachers). The patronage jobs are often of the “no-show” (except to collect pay) variety.

Patronage teaching jobs are the major problem in India and the reason India has such a difficult time providing qualified workers for technical jobs (those that at least require basic reading and math skills). In Pakistan Islamic terrorism is also a major problem. This expresses itself in two ways. The poor quality of education at most schools (because of patronage teachers or just few resources in general) leads many parents to send their children to free Islamic schools (madrassas). These emphasize religious studies, although most also impart basic literacy and math skills. But many (less than ten percent) are run by Islamic radical clerics and staff and try to turn out Islamic terrorists. These madrassas are the source of many suicide bombers and Islamic terrorists in general. While most of these students don’t join terrorist groups, they are disposed to support such terrorism.

Pakistan has been unsuccessful in shutting down (or even identifying) all the Islamic radical madrassas. Many of these are in the tribal territories and guarded by armed tribesmen who will kill those who try to mess with their madrassas. Too many people in the military and the civilian government still support Islamic radicalism, although they usually oppose terrorists who attack Pakistanis. Nevertheless, the madrasas in general have too many supporters inside Pakistan and until this attitude is changed shutting down or reforming (to provide students with more education that will help them get a job) madrassas is not happening.

India is acutely aware that it is falling farther behind China economically, in part because Chinese schools are much less corrupt and much more effective. In short, China has a much better educated workforce and that is driving economic growth that has made China three times (per capita) as productive as Indians.

In both Pakistan and India parents who can afford it send their children to private schools. These are often primitive, cheap, and effective (because the teachers teach). This makes it more difficult for the very poor to break out of their poverty.

 

 


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