Parents and students in urban India have perhaps the greatest array of school choice in the world. Nearly half of all students in the major Indian cities like Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai attend private for-pay schools in preparation for college and careers.
By contrast, average American students have almost no choice of their schools. Out of 100,000 schools in the U.S. less than 3% are non-government schools. The local public school and one or two private schools generally are the extent of "School Choice" for middle class families. For the poor - there is no choice, even if they are frugal and want to put education above other expenses.
The expansive school opportunities Indian's enjoy comes from a free-market system of education in India. The Government knows its schools are generally horrendous and so they permit private schools (profit and not-for-profit) to open and attract students and flourish or fail in the open market.
Getting into these private schools is a challenge - acceptance, for the most part, is based on academic merit. The reason: schools attract students and set tuition based upon the academic performance of their students. Scores on National Exams are published for the public and so parents can more easily assess which schools deliver the education top colleges desire.
In most Indian middle class families, education is the second largest budget item after housing. Sacrifice, effort and choice add up to tens of millions of Indian children getting a world class education.
To compete, Americans need these same attributes - and we must add our own cultural advantages for a competitive edge. But with a unionized, mediocre, monopoly school system U.S. children already start life behind their global peers. And in the 21st Century we'll see very few "come from behind" victories.
Learn more about the Indian education system from Associated Press reporter Ravi Nessman HERE