Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate said that it was massive investment in education in the select East Asian nations that not only led to their emergence on the international map, but also helped in the formation of their identity as East Asian giants. Sen was giving the 12th foundation lecture of Asian Development Research Institute (Adri) at a function otherwise held to mark the inauguration of the three-day international seminar organized by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) headed by former Union minister Dr Karan Singh and supported by ministry of external affairs (MEA). Thematically, the lecture of Sen was synchronized with the theme of the ICCR international seminar – ‘Civilizational Dialogue between India and ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations)’.
He also said Bangladesh, in recent times, had pumped in a huge sum of money for the promotion of elementary education, even as its growth rate in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) was lower than that of India. The all-round progress witnessed in China in Maoist China before 1979 was also propelled by the push given to its education sector, following which reforms brought in by Deng Xiao Ping became possible. According to Sen, the GDP of India is certainly greater than that of Bangladesh, but Bangladesh is the only country in the world where more girls than boys have been going to schools, and it had “definitely overtaken India”.
Sen recalled the local flora and fauna, people, rivers (specially the Irawady river), mountains and palaces, and also mentioned how he used to draw their images on the walls of the family house. While the locals were “happy and cheerful people, always showing their smiling faces,” the nanny who took his care left an indelible impact on him. “She was very beautiful; among the most beautiful I had seen. I still remember a few Burmese words,” Sen said, adding: “These impressions formed a standard of Asian identity within me that helped me in my later research.”