Improving education lies at the heart of solving the problem. India’s underperformance, they write, can be traced to a failure to learn from the examples of so-called Asian economic development, in which rapid expansion of human capability is both a goal in itself and an integral element in achieving rapid growth. Japan pioneered that approach, starting after the Meiji restoration in 1868, when it resolved to achieve a fully literate society within a few decades. As Kido Takayoshi, one of the leaders of that reform, explained: “Our people are no different from the Americans or Europeans of today; it is all a matter of education or lack of education.”
Indians hugely value this, too, but effective public education remains out of the reach of millions. The private sector is often excellent but state schools – all that is available for most ordinary Indians – remain abysmal.
Any number of cross-national studies, including recent Pew surveys and data from the World Values Survey at the University of Michigan, show that higher education levels correlate with people’s assigning a higher value to democracy, individual freedom and tolerance for alternative lifestyles.Middle-class people want not just security for their families but choices and opportunities for themselves. Those who have completed high school or have some years of university education are far more likely to be aware of events in other parts of the world and to be connected to people of a similar social class abroad through technology.