As China tries to grow its way onto the list of high-income economies , innovation will have to play an increasingly more important role. Is China’s educational system capable of producing the innovative and talented workforce it needs? Or will the country’s growth be hobbled by what goes on in its classrooms? Many are concerned that the Asian giant will fall short.In terms of public education expenditure as a ratio of GDP, China only recently inched closer to the world average. The same is true of China’s level of education, as measured by the average years of schooling among the country’s adult population. It’s not only lower than that of developed countries, but also lower than many of the developing ones. However, a country’s public expenditure on education only reflects the government’s investment, not that of its citizens. Also, the average years of schooling may not be an accurate measure of a country’s educational level.

When it comes to education, quality matters just as much as quantity, if not more so.Based on an index of educational quality, East Asian countries or economies, including China, led the way.  The index is derived from internationally comparable math and science test scores of primary and secondary school students from over 70 countries. The authors, Professor Eric Hanushek of Stanford University and Professor Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich, showed that a country’s economic growth has more to do with the quality than quantity of schooling. For example, in 2010 Filipinos received, on average, 8.95 years of education. This was more than the 8.11 years received by Chinese, and very close to the 9.13 years received by Singaporeans; but economic development in the Philippines is far behind Singapore and China. These results would not be surprising to anyone who knows that the index of educational quality for Singapore is 5.33, for China it’s 4.94, while it is only 3.65 for the Philippines.