Across India, 260m children attend school; and while primary enrolment is universal- learning is not, according to Yamini Aiyar of Delhi’s Centre for Policy Research. 99% of applicants failed the Central Teacher Eligibility Test in 2012. From 2004 to 2007, the World Bank estimates that a quarter of teachers are absent on any given day in India, even though the salary is ten times the local median in some states. Teacher absenteeism accounts for a loss of up to one-quarter of primary school spending. This amounts to $16 million annually in Ecuador and $2 billion a year in India.

This loss in funding hurts children from disadvantaged homes for whom school is the only escape from destitution. The 17,000 teacher-training institutes in India have become degree mills. From 2010-2011 to 2015-16, enrolment in public schools in India fell by 13m while enrolment in private institutions soared to 17m. Geeta Kingdon of UCL found that while school funding increased by 80% from 2011 to 2015 in India, test scores fell. India’s present demographic dividend is a window of opportunity, not a guarantee for progress.

At Davos-2018, Narendra Modi touched on India’s changing education policy that aims to devise an approach better adapted to the changing dynamics of its population. Children will be instructed at the appropriate level of their ability. Pupils will not be promoted without mastering material. School will become more meritocratic and accountable. The war for talent will ensure that teachers will be recruited for their talents- not their connections. Teacher preparation will be enhanced. Reward will be coupled to student performance. Teacher truancy will not be tolerated. Public-Private-Partnerships will be amplified using a mix of bureaucratic and charitable effort.

Poverty is only part of the problem. One third of schools have less than 50 pupils and 5,000 schools have none. In 2016, a study showed that in Delhi, the knowledge of sixth-grade pupils is two and a half grades below what the maths syllabus expects of them and by the ninth grade the gap is four and a half grades. Half of the nine-year-olds cannot find the sum of eight plus nine. Half of the ten-year-olds cannot read a paragraph meant for seven-year-olds, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017.

Secondary school attendance is 69% in India and 96% in China. 13% of India’s population are teenagers, compared with 8% in China and 7% in Europe. China’s millennials, however, are familiar with power and prosperity as past growth happened in some measure during their formative years.

The quest for personal development opportunities among China’s generation Y is about twice the average of their counterparts globally. This desire to be exceptional has led to academic-dishonesty during the annual ‘gaokao’ or university entrance examination. In Luoyang, drones are used to pinpoint suspicious radio signals emanating from OCR pens and earpieces inside examinations halls. With only 6.5m admissions for 9m teenagers it means that one in three candidates may not rendezvous with the Silk Roads.

In Swat Valley hundreds of girls’ schools bolted by the Taliban are now barracks, according to the Global Terrorism Database. Jorge Familiar of the World Bank states that countries that offer high-quality education to an expanding young population will prosper.

A 2016 World Bank report states that the number of youth in Latin America who are neither in school nor work (ni estudia ni trabaja) or the ‘Ninis’ total more than 20m. The thinking of this ‘lost generation’ is plagued by misconceptions and fallacious inferences. Many students are irrational because they are either unwilling to think about what is the best thing to do or they have imperfect information which results in misadventures.

Consequently, a culture of persistent poverty is reproduced across generations. This growing population of socially excluded youth is set to be a new societal fault line in the region. The UN Office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth has noticed that in Latin America and the Caribbean the youth unemployment rate was about 17.1 per cent in 2017.