Are China’s universities really better?

EducationWorld November 2022 | Anniversary Essay
-Makarand Paranjape

ARE CHINESE UNIVERSITIES BETTER THAN Indian universities? If we go by hard facts, the simple answer is yes. But the simple answer is not always the correct answer. If the primary purpose of a university is to not merely disseminate information and impart skills, but nurture creative and critical thinking, the superiority of Chinese universities over their Indian counterparts is questionable.

Not that Indian universities excel in creativity and critical thinking. As a rule, they do not. But at their very best, at the apex of India’s hierarchical higher education pyramid, our top-ranked universities, and IITs and IIMs do produce critical and creative thinkers, even prodigies. Unfortunately most of the latter are exported out of India and fulfil their true potential in advanced Western countries. But that’s a topic for discussion at another time. Yet the plain truth is that the number of global CEOs awarded their first degrees in India far outnumber those from China.

That’s because Chinese higher education institutions excel in programmatic, not creative, thinking. As for criticism and dissent, their scope is severely limited in the prevalent single-party dictatorship. Big Brother watches over all university agendas, even departmental meetings. Deviance is identified and punished.

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