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Education in India and China Essay


The global society is currently in a knowledge based development phase. Knowledge is the key to the prosperity of various economies. As knowledge becomes a vital component of so does the importance of higher education in global prosperity. Increased educational opportunities increase people’s level of income.

In addition, increased educational opportunities create a large pool of skilled people who would have positive contribution to economic development. Increased educational opportunities are one of the major characteristics of middle-income countries that are experiencing faster rates of growth (Bhatia & Dash, 2010).

The world is currently experiencing rapid changes in various fields. Developments in science and technology, internationalization of education and increased competition have led to rapid changes in education. There is a shift from ‘national education, ‘to global education.’

The integration of the global economy is the factor that has necessitated this paradigm shift. In addition, education has shifted from being teacher-centric to learner centric. These changes necessitate various countries to formulate strategies that would enable them to cope with the new challenges of education (Bhatia & Dash, 2010).

China and India account for almost half of the world population. Therefore, they have the potential of being very influential globally. China and India are part of the emerging markets, which are commonly referred to as BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China).

China and India are currently experiencing high economic growth rates and a significant improvement in the socio-economic environment. These changes are due to the large-scale transformation of the societies and economies of both countries (Arnove, 1984).

Both countries face similar challenges in transforming their economies and societies. However, they have completely different social, economic, and political structures. Both countries depend on education as one of the major foundations of their social and economic development.

Since both China and India strive to have excellent economies, it is vital for the countries to have educational systems that are similar to some of the best educational systems in the world (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

A study of the education system of both countries would help in determining some of the forces that have helped in shaping the inputs and outcomes of education (Goldman, Kumar & & Liu, 2008). This would help to provide insights into the future needs of education in both countries.

Historical Context of Education

The historical development of the education system of China and India has three critical similarities. The leaders of both countries perceive education as one of the key pillars of economic development.

India’s first prime minister helped in the renovation of the education system to ensure that it helps in building the economy.

In China, Deng Xiaoping advocated for a reorientation of the education systems towards modernization, the world, and the future. In addition, both India and China had an elitist traditional education system that was more than two thousand years old.

This provided a good foundation for the countries to develop their education system. Finally, the Soviet Union model of education is the major education system that has influenced both countries. This made both countries to develop a curriculum that gave special emphasis to science and technology (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

This strategy led to the creation of a large pool of talent in science and technology. Each year hundreds of thousands of students graduate from various colleges and universities in China and India with science related degrees.


There have been drastic changes in China’s education during the second half of the twentieth century. During the early years of the People’s Republic of China, the government attempted to provide the masses with basic education (Goldman, Kumar & & Liu, 2008).

However, the government simultaneously prepared a higher education to the governing elite. However, the government was not able to carry out its plan after the eruption of the Great Cultural Revolution.

Various parties were of the opinion that the two-tier education system served the interests of the few elite people at the expense of the masses.

The revolution led to the halting of university education. There was a major reorientation of education policy after the revolution with the sole aim of education at all levels being to prepare people with Communist ideals (Tsang, 2001).

The Great Cultural Revolution led to the shortening of primary education from six to four or five years. In addition, the government reduced the secondary education from six to three years. In addition, the revolution led to the reconstruction of the curriculum.

The government replaced physics, chemistry, history, geography, and literature with several courses in industrial skills and other practical courses. In June 1966, the government halted university entrance exams.

During this period, the few colleges that admitted students used political virtue as the major criteria for selecting students (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

The rise of Deng Xiaoping to power led to the reintroduction of academic standards. Before the Cultural Revolution, the government gave special emphasis to access to education. However, the new government of Xiaoping gave special emphasis to quality rather than quantity of education.

In 1985, the government introduced a compulsory nine-year education policy to reduce people’s concerns of elitism in education. The government reinforced this policy in 1993 (Tsang, 2001). This helped in reducing the probability of another revolution from taking place to disrupt the education system.

The Great Cultural Revolution was a tumultuous period for education. However, without the revolution, the government would not have initiated drastic changes in the education system to correct its shortcomings.

The compulsory nine-year education policy led to the merger and closure of various schools. This led to a lack of schools in certain rural areas that were sparsely populated. Lack of schools reduced the enrolment rates of rural areas significantly.

The enrolment rates in most Chinese provinces were lower in 1985 – after the enactment of compulsory nine-year education policy – than in 1978. During this period, the government also undertook agricultural reforms. This made some families find it economically right to make their children work in their farms instead of taking them to school (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

The government divided secondary education into four levels depending on the academic intensity of the schools. Key schools had the highest education intensity whereas vocational schools had the lowest academic intensity.

The government prioritized vocational schools to enable more people to access education. Prioritization of vocational education increased the proportion of vocational education in secondary education from 18% in 1980 to 45% in 1989 (Tsang, 2001).

However, the number of students who prefer general secondary education has been increasing steadily since the early 1990s. This is because general secondary education increases the probability of a student achieving higher education.

On the other hand, the rate of enrolment in vocational schools has declined significantly (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

The government reintroduced common college admission exams in 1977. Since 1985, the government has introduced several changes in the curriculum of higher education institutions. The government widened the curriculum making it resemble the curriculum of American colleges and universities.

In addition, the government eliminated the job assignment role of universities. In 1995, the government passed the Education Law of the People’s Republic of China. The law outlines the government’s education policies that help the country to produce highly skilled laborers and exceptional scholars and scientists (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

The current Chinese schooling structure comprises of six grades for primary education (grades 1-6). However, in a few cases, it may comprise of five grades (Grades 1-5). Secondary education comprises of junior level (grades 7-9) and senior level (grades 10-12).

In addition, there are vocational high schools, which specialize in the provision of skill-based education. Students take four years to complete their bachelor’s degrees in most Chinese universities and colleges. However, students take two years to obtain associate’s degrees in most junior colleges.

There are two types of graduate studies in China. These are a two-year master’s degree and a three-year doctoral degree. In the past, most universities required students to have at least one master’s degree prior to admission to a doctoral degree program (Goldman, Kumar & & Liu, 2008).

However, several universities currently offer five-year doctoral degree programs, which resemble those offered by the United States’ universities.


The British, who was India’s colonial masters, helped in the development of India’s education system prior to the country’s independence. Therefore, India benefited from the development of the education system by the British. The government gave little emphasis to primary education.

On the other hand, secondary education was only a stepping-stone to higher education, which was the preserve of the elite. However, since 1986, the government has given more emphasis on primary education due to its strategic importance (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

After gaining independence from the British in 1948, India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, implemented several changes in the country’s education system to enable it meets the country’s technical, scientific, and work force needs.

The prime minister helped in constituting two commissions that provided suggestions on strategies that would help in improving secondary and university education. However, one of the major shortcomings of the government is that it gave special emphasis to secondary and university education.

The government allocated large funds to secondary and university education. This led to rapid, unplanned, and uncontrolled expansion of secondary and university education. During this period, the government set up several high quality higher education institutions.

However, the absence of technological infrastructure graduates of the institutions either emigrated or joined the unemployed people in society. However, the government did not tackle the problem of mass illiteracy, which continued to prevail in society (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

In 1964, the government constituted a commission to solve the problem of unequal development of different levels of education. The head of the commission was D.C. Kothari. The major task of the commission was developing coherent national education policy.

The commission concluded its activities in 1966. The commission advocated the provision of government-funded free and compulsory education to all children until they reach 14 years old (Sharma & Sharma, 1996). In addition, the commission advocated the prioritization of scientific education and research.

However, the government did not allocate enough funds in the implementation of most of the views of the commission. The government only reinforced the emphasis on science and technology education (Ghosh, 2000).

In 1986, the government enacted the National Policy on Education. The policy advocated for increased financial and organizational support to improve the accessibility of education to disadvantaged groups. Disadvantaged groups included women, disadvantaged castes and the rural population.

In addition, the policy advocated for an improvement in the standards of education. The government sought financial help from the private sector. This helped in complementing the government funds.

One of the major features of this policy is the promotion of privatization of education and increased emphasis on secularism and science (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

Since the enactment of the National Policy on Education, the government has introduced several initiatives to improve the quality of education. In 1987, the government introduced an initiative that helped the continuous improvement of the knowledge and competence of teachers.

In 1995, the government introduced the National Program for Nutrition Support to Primary Education. This initiative involved the daily provision of a cooked meal to children in primary grades.

The major aim of this initiative was to provide an incentive for parents to send their children to school and reduce the perception of parents that sending children to school is expensive.

In the year 2000, the government introduced the Movement to Educate All. The aim of this initiative was to achieve universal education to all Indian citizens by the years 2010 (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

Just like China, India has a schooling structure that includes 12 grades prior to college or university education. In India, the breakdown of the schooling structure of the primary and lower secondary levels of education vary from one state to another.

However, all states adhere to the “10 + 2 + 3” system. Students spend ten years in general education. Two years of pre-university or upper secondary school precede three years of university education. A typical schooling structure comprises of five years of primary education (grade 1 to 5). Grades 6 to eight make up upper primary education.

There are two levels of secondary education. These are lower secondary education (grade 9 and10) and higher secondary education (grade 11 and 12). There are board exams after the end of each level. After the eighth grade, students who wish to join employment early usually join vocational colleges.

One similarity between the education system of China and India is the fact that the first nine grades of education are compulsory. Unlike China, most bachelor’s degrees in India take three years to complete. However, other degrees such as engineering take four years to complete.

On the other hand, students take five and a half years to obtain bachelor’s degrees in medicine. Masters and doctoral degrees take two and three years respectively to complete (Clark, 2006).

Comparative Analysis of Education in China and India


Enrollment rates are one of the major measures of accessibility of education. The net enrolment rates in both countries have been on a steady increase. China has a net enrollment of 95% whereas India has a net enrolment of 82%. This is a significant increase from the enrolment rate, which was 40% in 1985.

Therefore, it is evident that the rates of enrolment in China have increased more rapidly. However, the enrolment rates in the countries are much than the employment rates of other Asian Tigers such as South Korea, which had primary enrolment rate of 100% in the 1960s (Mehrotra, 1998).

The literacy rate of a country’s population is another major measure of accessibility to education. In the year 2000, the average years of schooling for people who were more than 15 years old was 6.35 years in China. On the other hand, the average years old of schooling for the same category of people was 5.06 in India.

Statistics from the same year show that 18% of China’s population who were more than 15 years old did not have any education. 33.9% of China’s population had attained primary education. On the other hand, the attainment rates of secondary and college education were 43.5% and 2.8% respectively.

In India, 43.9 % of the population did not have any education. The attainment rates of primary and secondary education were 28.2% and 23.8% respectively. 4.1% of the population had a college education (Barro & Lee, 2001).

The availability of a large pool of educated workforce in China is one of the major factors that have given it a competitive edge over India. The large educated workforce enables China to attract manufacturing plants. This is a clear example of how education has helped in the development of the Chinese economy.

As explained above the government has more focus in higher education than in primary education. This has resulted in a tremendous increase in the number of institutions of higher learning. In addition, the enrolment of students into institutions of higher learning has increased significantly.

In 1947, there were 25 universities and 700 colleges in India. These colleges and universities admitted about 200,000 students. This number rose to 121 universities and 5040 colleges, which admitted 3.1 million students. However, in 2005, India had 234 universities and 17,625 colleges, which admitted 10.5 million students (Clark, 2006).

The enrolment of students into China’s institutions of higher learning has also increased significantly. In 1978, there were 598 higher education institutions, which admitted 856 thousand students (Goldman, Kumar & & Liu, 2008).

However, this number increased to 1016 institutions of higher education, which admitted 1.7 million students. In 2005, there were 1022 institutions of higher learning, which admitted 3.4 million students (Tsang, 2001). The enrolment rate rose to 4.47 million students.

This signifies an enrolment rate of 19%. In 2004, the number of students in institutions of higher learning was 20 million. This made China have the largest higher education sector in globally (Bai, 2006).


Quality is one of the measures that determine the efficiency of a country’s education system. Dropout rates are one of the measures of quality of the education system of a country. The dropout rate is of girls and boys are usually different.

In 1960, the dropout rate of boys in India was more than 60%. However, this number dropped to 38% in 1998. Despite the large decrease in the dropout rates, the number was still large for a country entering the twenty-first century. In 2008, India had a dropout rate of 17% (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

China has fared much better than India in the retention of students. In 1990, China had a dropout rate of 15%. This was significantly lower than the dropout rate of India, which was 38%. By 1998, China the primary dropout rate of China had decreased to 0.9% whereas the secondary dropout rate was 3.2%.

In 2002, China had a repetition rate of 0.3%, whereas India had a repetition rate of 4.8% (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008). This is a clear indication of the superiority of China’s education system over that of India.

The education system of a country must be able to meet the needs of the country. The relevance of education enables the education system to meet the needs of the country. Therefore, the relevance of education is one of the measures of quality of the education system of a country.

Countries with diversified economies usually provide different education alternatives that would enable students to meet the needs of the economy. Vocational training is one of the major education alternatives to higher education. This is because it caters for the labor market of the country directly.

The Chinese government has increased the percentage of education funding to vocation institutions significantly. In 1991, vocational training accounted for a mere 3% of the public education expenditure. However, the ratio rose to 11.7% in 1997 (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

In 1978, student enrolment in vocational colleges accounted for approximately 5% of the total enrolment. However, by 1994, the enrolment of students into vocational schools accounted for approximately 56% of the total enrolment.

On the other hand, India has created approximately 20,600 sections in thousands of schools. The sections provide an alternative to higher education to approximately one million students (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).


Both India and China have taken measures to improve their rates of enrolment. However, increased enrolment of students increases the pressure on the existing education infrastructure. This necessitates the improvement of education infrastructure.

Therefore, education infrastructure is one of the measures of the quality of education of a country. Lack of basic education amenities is likely to discourage students from enrolling and completing education. Both China and India lack sufficient education infrastructure.

Due to lack of funds, the Chinese and Indian governments should ensure that they forge more partnerships with the private sector to ensure the provision of education infrastructure (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008).

Technology helps in increasing the efficiency of education. In fact, technology may ease access to education. Therefore, it is vital for the education system of a country to have technological content. The Chinese and Indian governments appreciate the importance of technology in the development of education.

In fact, some scholars have argued against the integration of technology into the Indian education system since it is too high (Konana & Balasubramanian, 2002). Reduction in the costs of computing and communication is one of the major factors that have led to increased incorporation of technology in the education system of both countries.

In India, more than 20% of students who enroll in institutions of higher learning are in distance education. Most of these students are in rural areas (Goldman, Kumar & Liu, 2008). This highlights the importance of technology in improving the ability of the population to attain education.


Understanding the successes and challenges of the education system in both countries would provide insights into the future direction of the education system of both countries. In addition, it would help in formulating efficient strategies to improve the rates of enrolment and quality of education for both countries.

Both countries should learn from the strengths and weaknesses of each other’s education system. China has been successful in ensuring increasing its enrolment rate. One of the major steps strategies that have enabled the country to improve its rate of enrolment is lack of overemphasis on higher education.

This has led to even development of education at all levels. On the other hand, India’s overemphasis of higher education has been detrimental to the development of education at low levels. Therefore, India should learn from China on how to develop its education system.

However, despite the considerable progress in the education system of both countries, the countries need to undertake measures to ensure the education of millions of illiterate people in both countries (Liu & Kumar, 2008). This necessitates both countries to develop efficient adult education programs.

The governments of both countries view education as one of the pillars of future economic prosperity. Both countries appreciate the importance of science and technology education in improving their economy.

Incorporation of technology is one of the major strategies that would enable the country to solve the problem of mass illiteracy. Incorporation of technology into India’s education system has enabled the country to increase its enrolment rates significantly (Liu & Kumar, 2008).

Therefore, in the near future, both countries will continue integrating technology into its education system.

In addition, it is vital for the government to form more partnerships with the private sector to enable it to get finances to develop educational infrastructure. The structure of the Chinese economy may one of the major hurdles that may prevent the government from collaborating with the private sector.


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