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Education in India and at Home

In a comment on my previous post, am833 wrote

Why do [Indian] conglomerates run universities? Why don’t you see this happening in the US and other more ‘developed’ markets?

This question has been on my mind in the wake of Yale SOM’s Education Leadership Conference on March 23rd. One of the ideas Bridgeport superintendent Paul Vallas brought up was that America's advantage in higher education is no longer sufficient to cover up our shortcomings in primary education. Other nations -- both developed and developing -- are building university systems that compete with ours and we need better K-12 education to retain our competitiveness. This view connects with our international experience trip to India. Education came up in most meetings and many of the conglomerates were either starting for profit vocational schools or founding nonprofit universities. Their language was almost identical to the language at the education leadership conference: "companies cannot find enough well-trained workers." But the diagnosis was totally different -- better primary education in the US versus better vocational and higher education in India. A discussion on training in our Strategy and the Internal Organization of the Firm class today made me wonder if this divergent diagnosis is accurate. The problems of India and the US may be more similar than they seem. In both, there is a need to prepare the next generation while dealing with the skills mismatch in the current generation. Early childhood education was one of the most exciting topics at the conference and Pratham’s Read India program is one of the most exciting projects in India. For the current generation, projects like Skills for America’s future promote corporate partnerships for vocational education in the US while corporations like Reliance are opening vocational universities in India. The solutions are almost mirrors -- targeted remedial education for children and skill-based, employer-influenced vocational education for adults. Would one of my Bangladesh/Vietnam trip classmates care to weigh in on why conglomerates play in education in countries like India and whether it's unique?