Why is India so low in the Pisa rankings?

That is a request from J. and here is one recent story, with much more at the link:

A global study of learning standards in 74 countries has ranked India all but at the bottom, sounding a wake-up call for the country’s education system. China came out on top.

On this question, you can read a short Steve Sailer post, with comments attached.  Here are my (contrasting) observations:

1. A big chunk of India is still at the margin where malnutrition and malaria and other negatives matter for IQ.  Indian poverty is the most brutal I have seen, anywhere, including my two trips to sub-Saharan Africa or in my five trips to Haiti.  I don’t know if Pisa is testing those particular individuals, but it still doesn’t bode well for the broader distribution, if only through parental effects.

2. Significant swathes of Indian culture do not do a good job educating women or protecting their rights, even relative to some other very poor countries.  On educational tests the female students are at a marked disadvantage and that will drag down the average.

3. Countries taking the test for the first time may face a disadvantage in manipulating the results to their advantage; admittedly this cannot account for most of the poor performance.

4. Indian agricultural productivity is abysmal, in large part due to legal restrictions.  I discuss this in more detail in my next book An Economist Gets Lunch, due out in April.  That hurts the quality of life and opportunities for hundreds of millions of Indians, including of course children.

Overall, India has a lot of low-hanging fruit, but the country has further to go than many observers realize.  A quadrupling of per capita income would put them at what, the level of Thailand?


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