Monday, November 15, 2010

The education market in India and the US

When I think of the education market in India, I see tremendous opportunity. Anyone with a bit of panache can make an absolute killing giving tuitions for 11th and 12th students, and for variety and recreation can teach engineering students part time. The kind of income one can make if one is keen easily surpasses what the best of MNCs can pay several times over. Of course, an important component of this income is from rent-seeking from several sources: the brands one flaunts on one's resume, the education bubble and the brands the crowd is after. Even charlatans who know little more than the contents of the last 10 years' question papers are highly sought after.

However, when I think of the education market in the US, my first thoughts are extremely pessimistic. High school teachers are paid a pittance compared to even the most regular 'decent' engineering job. There's no major tuitions market to speak of (maybe here and there for SAT, but I don't think one can think of it as a viable career option as here). The moment we get to universities, it's an absolute clusterfuck. Extremely talented, extremely hardworking people with PhDs and multiple years of experience shuttle around teaching part-time and barely eking out a living. One of the surest of certainties today is that a career in academia in the US is an absolute no-no except for exceptionally passionate people willing to sacrifice everything.

There is something wrong here. Either my understanding of one or both of the systems is wrong, or the market in India will cool down, or the one in the US will hot up. I feel the latter is not possible, and it doesn't fit the general trend that the US is 'ahead' in the saturation curve. Like a lot of what is hot in India, the market here is driven by caprices of regulation. What am I missing?


Pavan Srinath said...

Your definition of the Indian education market seems rather narrow. The school teachers get paid pittances. Ditto with college teachers. (The exception being C-grade engineering colleges that survive on management quota seats and try to hire good teachers by paying tonnes.)

Also, hopefully I am not alone in wishing for the demise of the lucrative tuition and entrance-exam-coaching businesses, unlikely as it may be.

KVM said...

Agreed, but if one - ANYONE - wants to make a good living, there's a fantastic market demand for it. Yes, primary and secondary school is quite out of the game, but tuitions there too aren't bad. The salary at MES college is probably 10k a month, but each one of the lecturers easily makes an order of magnitude more with tuitions.
The exception you write about is the rule - there are > 120 colleges in Bangalore, and they are pretty much ALL bad.

If you agree to that, then something still is wrong. What makes us so different from the US?

Karthik Rao-Cavale said...

Can you even call tuitions education? Do students come out of tuitions educated?

KVM said...

That's not the point. I am interested solely in the market, and its potential to help someone make a living. In one place, the market seems to be overwhelmingly demanding, while in another more "advanced" place it simply has no takers.

Manu J said...

Because I think the stereotypes are true. Most indian parents dominate their children and push them towards every thing which promises to give their children a bit more edge in the rat race while in western countries the kids are lot more in control and want to chill out leading to a near absence of "tuitions" market.

If you take out the "tuitions market" the similarities are immense. Underpaid teachers, the bright taking up jobs instead of academia because of the pay etc

You might want to read this

psrinath said...

Another way to look at it is: Teaching is a crummy way to make money everywhere. It's just that the Indian education system is so flawed that opportunistic entrepreneurs have found themselves several abcesses to thrive in.

Judgemental tone FTW.