According to UN estimates, 264 million children globally are out of school today, and many more children who are in school aren’t learning enough, because of the poor conditions for education. In developing countries, the lack of an education results in missing the opportunity to lift oneself out of poverty. India is currently facing one of the worst educational crises in the world. Over 17.7 million children are out of school. Illiteracy levels are as high as 40% and the foundation to improve these abysmal numbers appear lacking. Classrooms are understaffed. Teachers are not engaged so only 50% are teaching at any given time. Drop-out rates are unusually high. After starting primary school, 33% of the children drop out before they reach 5th grade! However, the most damning statistic is that although over half of India’s population is 25 years or younger, and approximately 10% of the population is under 5 years, India’s spending on education is just 3.3 percent of its GDP compared to an average 5.8 percent in developed countries. According to Pratham’s Annual Education Report for rural India, enrollment in at schools is over 96% because of the free mid-day meal, however after three years at school, over 60% of the children still cannot read. Neither are schools in India keeping up with India’s growing lower middle class. India’s lower middle class is projected to grow from 300 to 600 million in 8 years and India will require over 13,000 additional schools by 2022. This gap has resulted in the proliferation of private schools. The average private school costs have grown by a staggering 175% in the past six years, and is well beyond the reach of lower middle-class families. India also faces a shortage of close to 1 million qualified teachers due to low pay scales and social perceptions around being a school teacher. Yes, India faces an education crisis! The situation in the USA is better, but a number of issues remain. The gap in graduation rates between students of color and their white peers remains large. The high school graduation rate in the nation’s capital, which is plagued by poverty and troubled schools, and which has a higher percentage of students of color, dropped from 73% in 2017 to 59% in 2018. The reasons for the state of US education are similar to India in many ways. The average teacher salary is $45,000. In Oklahoma, you can make earn a higher income pumping gas than teaching children. In 46 states, graduating from a state high school won’t qualify you to attend the state’s own public colleges. Despite the demonstrated importance of pre-K education, only 33% of 4-year-old children attend state-funded pre-K programs. The schools are over-crowded and crime and shootings at schools are on the rise, resulting in students being lost to the prison system. However, in spite of the improving economy, school spending is stagnant. While education models and funding for schools have stagnated for decades, technology for wide-spread education has accelerated through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The education technology has the potential to tailor the courses so each child can learn at his or her own pace, while providing instant feedback to both students and teachers. The next article will explore the reasons for the slow adoption of these new models and how they may be accelerated.

About Thomas Thekkethala

Mr. Thekkethala is an Asian-American entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist with over twenty-five years of experience in financing and leading global technology companies.