Imagine waking up and working in the rice paddy all day.
No school, no reading, no writing. Literacy is a basic skill, yet millions around the world don’t know how to read and write. China and India are two similar countries geographically, as well as in population and age structure, yet the two countries have vast differences in their literacy rates. In addition, China’s economy (PPP) is US$27,804,953 million, while India’s is US$11,321,280 million.
Why the big differences?
China’s literacy rate in 2019 was 96.84% overall, much higher than India’s 78.87%. The fundamental question at the core is why is it that while we rate democracy as the better form of government, it is single-party ruled China that has been more successful at bringing more people out of poverty than democratic India? The implications for India are clear; investing in education and health for all its citizens is the best solution for long term growth.
I believe that it isn’t the type of government that contributes to China’s high literacy rate but instead its investment in health services and education. China expends 7.2% of its annual GDP on education and health, while India only spends 5.1% of its GDP. These statistics prove that early investment in education and health will eventually pay off.
The common belief that countries should grow economically first and then invest in education is proved wrong in this situation since China invested in education first while India did not. China’s high literacy rate will help the country to later on to boost its economy. Another example of how investing in literacy first will fuel exponential explosive growth for the economy later is Japan’s rapid growth since the second decade of the 20th century. Japan invested in healthcare and education after the Meiji restoration in 1868, and now Japan’s literacy rate is one of the highest worldwide at 99% of citizens over the age of 15.
The life expectancy of China and India also has huge discrepancies. In India, the overall life expectancy is 69 years, while China’s overall life expectancy is a whopping 77 years. The 8-year gap in life expectancy shows how better healthcare does make a difference.
In conclusion, India’s low literacy rates and poor health outcomes in comparison to China’s may very well explain the disparity in development between the two countries as well. In order to develop economically, a country first has to invest in education.
- Chandra, Tanushree. “Literacy in India: The Gender and Age Dimension.” ORF, Observational Research Foundation, 31 Oct. 2019, http://www.orfonline.org/research/literacy-in-india-the-gender-and-age-dimension-57150/. Accessed 4 Sept. 2020.
- “China: Literacy Rate | Statista.” Statista, Statista, 2015, http://www.statista.com/statistics/271336/literacy-in-china/. Accessed 3 Sept. 2020.
- “China Literacy Rate 1982-2020.” Macrotrends.Net, 2020, http://www.macrotrends.net/countries/CHN/china/literacy-rate. Accessed 3 Sept. 2020.
- “India Literacy Rate 1981-2020.” Macrotrends.Net, 2020, http://www.macrotrends.net/countries/IND/india/literacy-rate. Accessed 3 Sept. 2020.
- Josh, Jagran. “13 Parameters to Compare India and China.” Jagranjosh.Com, 17 June 2020, http://www.jagranjosh.com/general-knowledge/13-parameters-to-compare-india-and-china-1487597225-1. Accessed 3 Sept. 2020.
- “Literacy Rate in India- Literacy in Indian States.” Indiaonlinepages.Com, 2011, http://www.indiaonlinepages.com/population/literacy-rate-in-india.html. Accessed 3 Sept. 2020.
About the Author
Liliana Chow is a high school student in BC, Canada. She believes that it is our job to help women and children in the developing world to break out of their cycle of poverty. To begin, we can achieve this by eradicating illiteracy and teaching entrepreneurial skills. Liliana aspires to inspire youth into taking initiative to help solve problems that are close to their hearts.