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Asian Development Bank Warns That South Asia Lags Behind in Education, Healthcare

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South Asia is on a high economic growth path, but the Asian Development Bank warns that the region lags far behind in education and healthcare. A recent ADB report says this could undermine the region's competitiveness. Anjana Pasricha has more from New Delhi.

The Asian Development Bank says education and health care in South Asia are the worst in the world, except for Sub-Saharan Africa.

The bank says high economic growth in recent years in countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh has excluded too many people, and has failed to reduce poverty significantly.

A director in ADB's South Asia Department in Manila, Frederick Roche, says the quality of education needs to be improved at all levels, particularly in rural areas.

He says the region is not producing the number of educated people demanded by its growing economies. India, for example has only 12,000 training and vocational institutes, compared to half a million in China.

"The region now stands poised to take advantage for tremendous opportunities for growth," said Roche. "But the educational institutions of secondary and tertiary level in India are not able to produce the number of graduates which the market is presently demanding, and there are deficiencies in vocational and skills training throughout the region."

The report also underlines new health challenges faced by the region. It says the incidence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes is increasing due to changing lifestyles and urbanization.

Health specialists at the bank say diseases like diabetes are affecting people at a younger age in countries like India than they do in Western countries. They say this could have a serious impact on labor productivity.

The ADB is calling on governments to devote more resources to both education and healthcare.

Frederick Roche says the region has a "window of opportunity" to make sure its working-age population has the skills required by its growing economies.

"If that working-age population has the appropriate human capital, by that I mean not only skills as a result of education, but also physical health and vitality, [then] you have an opportunity there for an even greater acceleration of growth," he added.

The ADB's concerns about a lack of education have been echoed by India's thriving private sector. Businessmen here say they are rapidly running out of people with the right skills and training that are needed if their companies are to grow.

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