Recent photos of Chinese students cramming at night while on medical drips have caused a stir online in China. These amino-acid drips are aimed to increase performance, but have drawn criticism from far and wide as a dangerous symptom of the competitive pressures in the Chinese education system.
As we’ve mentioned before, there are concerns that increasingly competitive and better-educated students from emerging markets will start to put pressure on skilled jobs in global organizations. Western workers have enjoyed a near-monopoly on these jobs in recent years. However, this also points to the challenges of a backlash, as these students are pushed so hard to realize the grand new opportunities suddenly opening up for them. Japan has already tried reforming its incredibly intensive education system, which was causing stress, disenchantment, and student rebellion—and ended up being counterproductive. However, in today’s world connected by social media, this backlash may progress faster than in Japan. Businesses and governments need to think about the psychological effects on consumers that this pressure brings—not just the extreme cases of suicide, but the potential for rebellion and craving for relief this offers.