Both India and China have intense national testing programs to find the brightest students for their elite universities. The competition, the preparation and the national anxiety about the outcomes make the SAT testing programs in the U.S. seem like the minor leagues. The stakes are higher in China and India. The “chosen ones”””those who rank in the top 1%””get their choice of university, putting them on a path to fast-track careers, higher incomes and all the benefits of an upper-middle-class life.
The system doesn’t work so well for the other 99%. There are nearly 40 million university students in China and India. Most attend institutions that churn out students at low cost. Students complain that their education is “factory style” and “uninspired.” Employers complain that many graduates need remedial training before they are fully employable.
For now, the U.S. university system is still far ahead. But over the next decade, there will be a global competition to educate the next generation, and China and India have the potential to change the balance of power.