Two Million Minutes: Comparison of school education standards between Indian, China and USA


Education in INdiaDo you know one of the main worries Indian parents have with children studying in US schools?

It is how will their kids will cope up with Indian education standards if they move back to India.

Ask any parent who have returned to India and had their kids studying in US schools. The students are just not able to cope up with the standard of education in India. Most often than not parents decide to put their kids a class lower for kids to cope up with the Indian standards.

This is aptly attested by Robert A. Compton, producer of documentary called Two Million Minutes: A Global Examination

Two million minutes is the mount of time a student leaves eighth grade until high school graduation. The amount of education gathered within these 2 million minutes by 3 different super powers of 21st century is the subject of the documentary.

Compton was inspired to make Two Million Minutes to share his observations with American parents and students about the high education standards being set by the two largest and fastest growing countries on Earth.

What Compton learned in making the film was that high-school students from India and China surpassed U.S. students on every academic level — which puts the economic well-being of the U.S. at grave risk in a global economy.

“The simple fact is, global education standards have passed America by,” Compton said in a press release. “When it was Finland who was winning, it wasn’t such a concern. But now that our K-12 students are being outperformed academically by China and India — the two highest populated countries in the world with the fastest growing economies and with cultures that embrace intellectual challenge — it is cause for serious concern.”

In addition, few Americans realize that India and China — which have a combined population of 2.3 billion people — will have an enormous educated workforce in the years to come, said Compton, who worked in the corporate world before becoming a documentary filmmaker. The two countries have more than 400 million students in K-12 education compared to the 53 million in the U.S.

Compton specifically points out that Maths and Science subject in India have far higher standards compared to US. After researching the Indian school math standards, Bob assessed that math skills of an average US students was at least two years behind the same aged children who studied in India. He also saw that Indian students were being evaluated more frequently and practiced math more intently.

Indian Maths online

He has also gone ahead and developed an online system to assess child’s maths proficiency with Indian standards. Indian Math Online prescribes series of practice problems as well as reading assignments to increase and reinforce their math proficiency.

  1. Amit Kulkarni says

    I will not talk about china, but there is something overhyped about Indian education. I think US education is much advanced as compared to Indian education both at kindergarden-highschool and at the university level. Indian education esp grading system places a lot of emphasis on rote learning instead of understanding. Most US schools esp at university level evaluate the candidate throughout the course and 70% is just a Pass or C, while in indian universities it is very easy for students to just ride 70-90% of the course duration and just prepare for that one rote learning exam per semester and 40% is a Pass. The result of all this are seen in the fact that U.S continues to excel in doing hardcore research, building world class products, filing patents and producing excellent managers and all rounded citizens. while India continues to lag behind in the scientific arena. The U.S – India software trade is just 3% of the World market share and there is not a single world class product from the Indian IT companies.

  2. Clara says

    Education might be better in the US if more than only 4% of the federal budget went to public schools. Compare that with the 25% that goes towards the military. The number of days in a school year has been cut by two weeks in my district. Now wonder we’re so far behind.

  3. shuken says

    Well i’d assume the author is talking about the class of Indian families that send their children to public schools, in cities. It is definitely true that Indian school level is higher than American. I cannot comment about colleges. Probably because the course is more theoretical at school level. Indian students find it lot easier to school >1400 in sat than getting through Indian competitive exams (iit etc). Also the medical education in US requires 4 years of bs and then 4 years of md while the same requires 4.5 years after school in India. Both reaching the same level (according to US medical licensing exam). But by how much these marks correlate with real proficiency in your field, i do not know. Finally the post graduate and phd level education in US is incomparably better than India. So in the end the lead research is done mainly in US. Besides, although wrong, the literacy rate is not of much value. Neither is pass percentage. Because India is producing more graduates than US and question papers in India are of a greater difficulty level than America(given many of them myself)

  4. Harsh says

    Completely agree with author’s view on the current situation of Indian kids. btw, I recently noticed another website which also focuses on Indian Math.

  5. Kelly Price says


  6. Cece says

    ok, you can take statistics and distort them however you want to present so-called facts. But first things first: if you’re going to write an ‘article’ in English, first get someone to proofread it for you, if it’s not your first language and you have poor writing skills, like this author.
    Now, don’t use the 1% or so of highly educated, upper and upper middle class Indian families who come to the US, and then return to India, as a basis for evaluating the “wonderful” Indian education system. I work in the education sector in India, and this is not the case. Less than 1/4 of Indian uni graduates are employable, the curricula encourage rote learning, only 7% of the population ever makes it through high school, and those that do can hardly be called educated when 33% is considered a sufficient passing mark. Further, this is a country that still has an average literacy rate of about 60%. So, overall, if you want to compare India to China and the US, India is still light years behind, and will take at least two generations to catch up, if not longer. So, the US and China really have nothing to worry about. Add in the fact that due to a paternalistic mindset, most Indian workers are afraid to take initiative, think independently or make improvements to a situation, because they have to wait for the big boss to tell them what to do.

  7. peegee says

    one of the biggest problems in the US school system is that you do not have parallel courses. You can take say Physics 1 in 10th grade and Physics 2 in 12th. By the time you reach 12th, the one year gap in between is enough to make you forget what you studied in Physics 1. The parallel, mandatory system in Indian schooling makes one build on what they have learned.

  8. jay says

    to pass pharmacy examination in canada is only 60% but to pass that exam people sweat for 2 to three years ( it is not the percentage that count) but to pass american exam you need more than 80% but an indian student will only sweat three weeks for that

  9. RK Maini says

    It is usually the Govt. of a country which has enabled itself of the responsibility of playing with the educational needs of their children and are frequently introducing the varriable standards in K-12 curriculumn for appeasing some one important to the respective Govts. Otherwise it should be left open to the Private sector to develop and ensure its success. think…….

  10. Tiesha Thompson says

    Hey, I writing a research paper on the International Baccalaureate Program in the US, China, India and Canada. Can anyone direct me to how I could find some data on how IB students are doing compared to non-IB students in Mumbai?

    1. Danna says


      I just read your comment from a year ago, regarding your IB program research paper. My husband and I moved from Texas to Costa Rica 2 years ago and have 2 school age children. I would love to know the results of your paper, if you wouldn’t mind. We are trying to put together a ‘school’ or learning center here, as the private schools and public schools are solely teaching by textbooks and exams. Most of the time, my 9 year old spend his entire school time, ‘copying’ what the teacher says. No actual teaching. This is standard/normal for 99% of the schools here in CR. No inquiry based learning, or creative thinking and definitely no hands on, of any sort. We are in the beginning stages of development and I’m in charge of research that compares a few countries education standards. I would love to see what you have to say! By the way, where are you from?

      Have a great day and Pura Vida~
      Danna Bowman
      (mom to Wyatt and Savanna)

  11. Najeeb Kuzhiyil says

    I don’t think the Indian School Education is of higher standard than that in the US. Students excel because of sheer pressure. Also they are very good at learning text books. When it comes to applying their knowledge, I am sure the American kids would be far better than the Indian and Chinese kids. Indian education id far away from real life!

    Even in the universities we are concentrating on learning abstract stuff than practical training. Being an engineer myself, I know how my American counterparts are far superior to me and my other Indian and Chinese colleagues in building up reactors and research rigs! They can do things. We can talk things!

    It is time we changed our education into practically oriented. At the universities, the key word would be ‘research’. Unless we do research, I don’t think we will get any appreciation of any science. Just learning from others’ work is useless after a limit! Let us change our country through education that has purpose!

    1. Himanshu says

      I fully agree with you!! We are much better at solving Maths etc. as we give too many exams.But we can’t create anything new . I am studying in one of the “premier” engineering institutes in India , and even here not everyone is creative. We know the theory , we can solve the problems at the back of the textbook.But applying it to real life to come up with a new and revolutionary product? Nope

  12. R V G Menon says

    Is there some correlation between the high standard of India schools and the comparatively low standards of our Colleges / Universities?
    As a rule, we load our children very heavily as long as we can force them, with the result that they lose the urge to study by themselves, for themselves. So, naturally, they do not excel when the parental pressure is off, and where their own initiative and creativity are required to achieve excellence.

  13. Mr. Mike says

    I have not yet viewed the documentary and will do so when I return to the U.S.  (currently in India) I am wondering if in the documentary it is shared that the Indian grading (pass/fail) standard is such that scoring of 70% and higher on exams/classes in India is "A" level work whereas in U.S. our students must achieve greater than 90%.  And actually, the public high school I attended required our students to achieve 94%+ to attain "A" level status.   When I attended high school anything below a 70% was a failing grade but the Indian standard fails students at less than 40%.  How then does content truly compare?

  14. John Kabat says

    Very interesting comparisons and a wake-up call for American educators to take a hard look as to what kind of education we want for serious students in our high schools. It seems as if math and science are on the back burner. Question: In India and China, who are selected to attend an academic high school, and what do below average students get in the way of education?

  15. Pooja says

    Nice piece of information. It will be great if you can also publish this piece of information in as I am a member of SiliconIndia I am sure that this information will be useful for most of the members.

  16. Raja Agrawal says

    Very nice observation indeed!!

    I know some families here in France who are planning to go back to India only because they want good education for their child. The education system is very free and convenient (for the kid) and it really does not make them the hard-working kindda.

  17. Nazia Vasi says

    actually this is a good debate, the american system while having “low academic standards” in middle school, encourages innovation and thinking in its children, an aspect that Chinese schools don’t even bother about, and few Indian schools allow.
    So what will it be? an education of innovation or repetition?

  18. Arun says


    You are absolutely right when you said

    “I would say the problem is bigger than the schools themselves. I believe American parents don’t expect as much from their children as they once did.”

    At the same time, I also add that higher education post grad/ masters/phd are much better in USA than anywhere else. No wonder every one across the globe want to enter universities in US.

  19. Nazia Vasi says

    hey!! GREAT video!! Its a true telling of where the world is heading!! The low standards of the American education system have once again been exposed! Its good for India & China – in the next 30 years will we not only have financial might we will also have brain power!!

  20. Jim Norton says

    I suppose it depends on what school you go to in America. Some schools are better than others even in the public school systems.

    I went to a non-public private high school I can say I got a better education than my peers going to most public schools.

    And I would say the problem is bigger than the schools themselves. I believe American parents don’t expect as much from their children as they once did.

    When I was growing up, in America, my parents *expected* me to learn and do well. Nowadays that’s the exception, not the rule in America.

  21. WHY CORNER says

    Quite amazing! Never knew it’s like this; I mean the standards…

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