A country’s biggest asset is its people. Educating them not only gives birth to new ideas and innovations, and a workforce able to implement them, it also has the capacity to empower individuals in allowing them to determine the course of their careers and the quality of their lives. It is the link between a country’s economic status and its future. **At present, the U.S. is home to the largest number of postsecondary degree graduates in the world and 87 of the world’s top 400 universities.****Seven years from now the situation will look very different. In less than a decade, China is expected to turn out nearly 83 million postsecondary degree graduates, almost three times as many as the U.S.. India will produce 55 million graduates, almost twice as many as the U.S. will.**
Access to the very top universities in China and India sets young people on the path to success, creating magic carpet rides for the lucky few in which they will earn a return of at least 30 times their educational investment. **With a government policy of investing in indigenous technology to drive the economy and create jobs, China today produces more scientists every year than the U.S., and roughly ten times as many engineers.
** **Today, 15 of the top 100 MBA programs in the world are found in emerging markets, and competition for entry is fierce.** While Ritalin and Adderall have been familiar fixtures of college dorms in the U.S. for a few years now, children in China are taking the will to succeed to new levels. In the “black month” leading up to the country’s notoriously difficult university entry exams, schools such as Xioagang high school in Hubei province have been administering intravenous drips filled with amino acids to provide their students with energy in the lead up to the dreaded exam, which has been compared to a “stampede of 10,000 horses trying to cross a single log bridge.” If they succeed in gaining entry to their country’s elite institutions, these young graduates will get the best jobs, earn the highest salaries, move into modern apartments, buy cars and luxury goods, eat higher-quality food, enjoy access to the best health care and investment services, and influence the future of their country in profound ways. In terms of the quality of a country’s education system, the number of foreign students enrolled in its classes is a more reliable indicator than the amount of money spent. **With centuries of history, the top universities in the West will continue to attract the best and brightest minds. Founded in 1167, 61 percent of Oxford University’s graduate programs are made up of students from overseas for example, and 41 percent of its faculty are foreign citizens.**
While the second decade of the 21st Century will be one of austerity for many, the 2020s hint at a golden age of technology. While education has lagged behind other industries such finance, media and manufacturing in its adoption of digital technology, **advances in mass open online courses (‘MOOCs’), in which students study through a combination of video lectures, coursework and comment forums – and often without a fee – are changing the nature of elite education**. Following a 2011 experiment in online education by Stanford University in the U.S. – whose graduates have gone on to found companies such as Google, Hewlett Packard, Cisco Systems and Instagram – in which 170,000 students enrolled for an Artificial Intelligence course, Harvard and M.I.T. have followed suit with spectacular results – including a 15 year-old Mongolian boy who recently passed a tough M.I.T. electronics course with perfect scores.
## Newly online & newly urban
The gravitational pull of the city has never been stronger. Its promises of improved economic and social possibilities – hopes and dreams of a better life – are attracting people to their orbit at an unprecedented rate. The numbers are staggering. **Today, 3 billion, or 50 percent, of the world’s population live in cities. By 2030, this figure is projected to rise to 4.9 billion, or 60 percent of the world’s population.** With **the world’s urban population currently growing at four times the rate of the rural population, in developing countries**, the urban magnet is more powerful than ever before. Today, one third of the world’s population, 2 billion people, live in cities in developing countries such as China, India and Brazil – with another billion projected to join them by 2030. As cities are estimated to generate up to eighty percent of a country’s economic growth, the migration of people to urban areas echoes the patterns of the global economy shifting from the West to the East and South. **In China, around 270 million people are expected to move from rural areas to cities by the end of the decade, though as the economies of Sub-Saharan African countries continue to grow steadily, Africa will gradually replace Asia as the region with the highest urban growth rate.** Meanwhile, **cities in North America and Europe have reached a near saturation point in capacity, experiencing migration of people towards them primarily from countries beyond their national borders.** Connectivity is a phenomenon that takes place at differing rates for different regions – with Internet access particularly poor in many rural areas of the developing world, as people move to cities, they also move online. At present, 78.6 percent of North American households have access to the Internet today (with European households at 63.2 percent, and an impressive 49.2 percent in South America). In contrast**, mobile penetration in Africa grew from 1 percent to 54 percent between 2000 and 2012, and in 2014, it is predicted that 69 percent of mobiles on the continent will have access to the Internet**. Similarly, only 27.5 percent of Asian households had access to the Internet in 2012, yet** by 2030, Indian and Chinese cities alone will account for a combined 2.9 billion people online. Mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets will account for four fifths of broadband connections worldwide.** **However, just as the Industrial Revolution failed to free the worker from drudgery, online connectivity hasn’t brought us any closer to the post-Fordist “society of leisure” predicted in the late 1970s**. In fact, it could be argued that our omnipresent access to email and cloud computing – invariably experienced through LCD screens manufactured in South Korea’s Crystal Valley – has compromised our leisure time and introduced a new set of pressures, “a strange kind of existential state, in which exhaustion bleeds into insomniac overstimulation (no matter how tired we are, there is still time for one more click) and enjoyment and anxiety co-exist (the urge to check emails, for instance, is both something we must do for work and a libidinal compulsion, a psychoanalytic drive that is never satisfied no matter how many messages we receive)”, as described by the radical cultural commentator Mark Fisher in his essay Time Wars.