India, home to one of the largest and fastest-growing student populations in the world, has decided to opt out of the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) examinations, according to the national government. The reason? They think their students just aren't ready for it.
PISA, administered by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, is given to 15-year-olds every three years and is designed to provide a standard point of comparison for educational systems (Some countries, including India, had regions with enough variance in the educational systems to essentially have two entries). India participated for the first time in the 2009 exam, testing students in two of its states, and had originally intended to expand the test nationally for the 2012 outing. However, India scored 72nd out of 73 systems in the last round -- topping only Kyrgyzstan -- and decided to opt out of the latest round. It's unclear whether they'll participate in 2015, the next time the test will be offered. The test covers reading, math and science, and in math, India's two states finished second and third to last, again only beating Kyrgyzstan.
While the India Times article expresses disappointment with India's showing in the last round, India's results are a baseline, and the United States would still do well to ensure its students are receiving high-quality educations. And unlike the United States, India's public-school system is still being established; to do so, the entire country is making heavy, purposeful investments in the school system.
As a recent report from the Center for American Progress points out, spending on education in India has quadrupled over the last 30 years, even though many of its students still face brutal poverty (most families earn only $1.25 a day). India is investing in an ambitious goal to provide early-childhood education to 38 million students. Another component of the country's strategic plan to improve education includes recruiting and training 1.5 million more elementary-school teachers in order to ensure that every primary-grade student has a strong educational foundation. While students now might not be as ready as their government would like, the chances that students taking the 2024 PISA will be ready are exponentially high.
Finally, although India's educational infrastructure and capacity is still being built, the country is already graduating five times as many high schoolers as the United States is. The government wants to have 40 million students in higher education by 2020, which will mean an additional 26 million seats. By 2020, India will be conferring four times as many bachelor's degrees than the United States. The sheer amount of human capital, especially considering the increasing rate at which that capital is being educated, has the potential to overwhelm U.S. graduates on a global market.
How did the U.S. rank? Out of OECD member nations (and remember, even within partner nations, different education systems within the nations were tested), the U.S. placed 25th out of 33. Many of the partner countries and regions outscored the U.S., as well. The U.S., however, spends more than all other countries, save for Luxembourg, on education.