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March 20, 2009



I would love to see a documentary that looks at the educational systems of Western European countries like Finland. They are closer to the US culturally, so we could use them as a model for reform.

Many Americans think that Asians push kids too hard academically; Asians aren't well-rounded; they only become doctors and engineers, etc. I think many Americans would be shocked that many Western European countries also have very high academic standards. Americans need to see that culturally similar Western Europeans have to work very hard to be successful academically. Maybe then, Americans will realise how abnormal our underemphasis on academics actually is.

"My experience there proved to me that education is not about funding, as the national dialogue would have you believe. Rather, it is about values and desire as you so rightly point out."

This is part of a forum post on amazon.com:
"Americans tend to believe that difficult and challenging coursework will harm children. It will turn them off learning. We have this idea that our children will be damaged by 'too much' learning, so we 'protect' them by giving them a boring and mediocre education."

"What often motivates Indian students is their responsibility to take care of their parents in their old age the way they took such good care of them while young. The film doesn't discuss this."

Children in all third world countries have to take care of their aging parents. This doesn't lead to a strong focus on education in all developing nations. Why would this strongly motivate Indians and Chinese but not people in many other third world countries?


You compare typical/high achieving students in the three countries. What you fail to mention at all is that it is not even typical to be a high school student in India. The youth literacy rate is below 80% (female rates drastically lower than male's). World Bank statistics found that fewer than 40 percent of adolescents in India attend secondary schools. The Economist reports that half of 10-year-old rural children could not read at a basic level, over 60% were unable to do division, and half dropped out by the age 14. Using the same standard, US literacy is around 98%. By comparison to India, 70+% of the US population has been educated through grade 12.
India NOT full of geniuses compared to the US in spite of its enormous population.
So much for "typical for about 25% of the STUDENTS". Instead, you should report 'of the total youth' in each country.
The real problem in the US is not with K-8, but with 8-12 ONLY.
Why not analyze the effect of teacher's unions on poor education quality?


K-12 Student Population (in school)
US - 54 million
INDIA - 212 million
CHINA - 200 million

Granted, India and China have another couple hundred million students so poor they are not in school. This however does not nullify the education gained by the 412 million in school.

The US graduated 2.8 million high school students in 2008; India graduated 8 million; China 10 million.

Whether the Indians and Chinese are better educated than Americans today is not really material. In the long run, their numbers will overwhelm ours.

And today, their National Curricula are significantly more advanced - in all areas - than the state standards in the US. Moreover, both countries are actively investing in and upgrading their education system annually.


I'm an Indian viewer who saw the film. I agree with its message. But, I fear viewers may leave this film feeling Indians are an intellectual threat to the West, like the Soviets were seen as an intellectual threat to the West in the 80s. This feeling could lead to a dangerous prejudice towards Indians disguised as arrogance.

What often motivates Indian students is their responsibility to take care of their parents in their old age the way they took such good care of them while young. The film doesn't discuss this.

The sooner you finish your studies, the sooner you can get married and have children. Your children will grow up and become financially independent and stable by the time you retire. So when you retire, your children are able to take care of you and you will be able to live with them. Traditionally, Indians never put their parents in a nursing home. Parents go live with their children.

But overall, Indian parents want to make sure their children are financially stable enough prior to marriage, and when they marry they know there is someone there to take care of their child before they die. So they really push their kids to be ahead in their studies so they can be "settled" soon. Yes, the term is "settled" which used very differently in Indian society although it is an English word.

Anyhow, I'm curious why the film covers China and India? Scandinavian countries have the highest ranking in the world in I think math literacy. I wonder what are the reasons for that?


Finland and Singapore typically rank #1 or #2 in tests like TIMMS or PISA. While I hope to make future documentaries on their education systems, I focused on India and China for these reasons:

1- Both India and China educate 4X the number of students as the US (200M k-12 each compared to 54M for the US)

2- the schools shown in the film in both India and China are typical for about 25% of the students in each country

3- so India and China are educating about 50M students each to a dramatically higher intellectual and academic standard - particularly in math and science - than the US. Based on US state curricula - only Massachusetts would come even close to the 100M well-educated Indians and Chinese

4- economic growth correlates directly with the level of math and science educational attainment in a population

5- India and China - already the 4th and 2nd largest economies behind the US - will have 10X the citizens educated to a level that will sustain economic growth 2-4X faster than the US

6- jobs, companies, capital and perhaps whole industries will gradually shift out of the US and into China and India because they have larger and better educated workforces - the kind necessary for the higher growth, higher value industries of the 21st century.

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