Think Korean Education is Competitive? Try India

There are 1,200,000,000 Indians
This is an almost inconceivable number. OMG. Average age? According to Wikipedia (take that with a small grain of salt), 50% are under 25 years old. OMG OMG. Average income? $1,527 USD. That is something like 1,650,000KRW a year. Do you get the picture? Enormous country, enormous poverty, all young. When you think about your stress going from Anyang to Seoul, and the pain of the endless traffic, you should think again about the fact that Korea’s standard of living was about the same after the Korean War. If you take a taxi in Mumbai for an hour, you will see what I mean. People on foot for as long as you can see. You know those areas near Namsan (which are being “renovated”)? It is like that for miles and miles. Literally.

Big Hopes, and Big Problems
Let’s leave out the typical regional differences, and number of languages that exist in India. Here are some comparisons to Korea. In India, corporate corruption is alive and well. Misrepresentations are everywhere, running largely unchecked. That is to be expected in any emerging market country. The clever are too smart for antiquated customs and rules that are not keeping pace with the modern global economy. Again, this shouldn’t be surprising to any observer of the global economy. As has been stated here, the large young population could make India a global economic power on demographic influence alone. Do you think aspiring Indians don’t know this? You would be thinking wrongly.

Education? That is Another Matter
In Korea, there is the ubiquitous SKY (Seoul National, Korea, Yonsei) set of universities. Yes, in Korea, it has increasing becoming only “S” as the predominant university. It seems like the difference is widening, not narrowing, which is pretty remarkable. Nevertheless, there are other excellent schools in engineering, for example, like KAIST and POSCO. If you are new to Korea, or do not know anything about Korea, KAIST is the MIT/CalTech of Korea. There isn’t much debate about the order, so the creme de la creme are all trying to jam themselves into a virtual pinhole. In the US, there are many schools within spitting distance of MIT/CalTech (alums may dispute this generalization, but let’s move on).
Now multiply by, oh, let’s call it 20 times. That is India. It has one admission test, much like Korea (despite the gradual changes). Everything rides on it in India. So basically, there are literally more than 10,000,000 people who could, theoretically, take this exam every year. In Korea, there are now at least a few universities that represent top universities, even in engineering. In India, there is ONE top engineering college, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). So before Korea entertains complaints about the extreme competitiveness, it should think again, a simple plane ride west will prove this fact.

If you take out the extremely poor in India, the illiterate who could not afford a basic education (a large problem), that would reduce the amount of applicants versus spots at IIT enormously, but guess what? It would still be many, many TIMES more competitive than getting into KAIST. Best way to tell, ask a KAIST graduate what he thinks of IIT (if he met someone from there). That isn’t to say that Korean students don’t live a difficult life (especially compared to the US), but this is one reminder of how far Korea has come in a very short time.

If you think I am exaggerating, read this article about Delhi University, a largely non-engineering school.