2 Million Minutes: The Documentary

A controversial documentary making the claim that the American school system is not preparing high school children to compete in the global economy. This film compares of the lives of 2 American, 2 Indian and 2 Chinese students.


Regardless of nationality, as soon as a student completes the 8th grade, the clock starts ticking. From that very moment the child has approximately –
…Two Million Minutes until high school graduation…Two Million Minutes to build their intellectual foundation…Two Million Minutes to prepare for college and ultimately career…Two Million Minutes to go from a teenager to an adult

How a student spends their Two Million Minutes – in class, at home studying, playing sports, working, sleeping, socializing or just goofing off — will affect their economic prospects for the rest of their lives.

How do most American high school students spend this time? What about students in the rest of the world? How do family, friends and society influence a student’s choices for time allocation? What implications do their choices have on their future and on a country’s economic future?

This film takes a deeper look at how the three superpowers of the 21st Century – China, India and the United States – are preparing their students for the future. As we follow two students – a boy and a girl – from each of these countries, we compose a global snapshot of education, from the viewpoint of kids preparing for their future.

Our goal is to tell the broader story of the universal importance of education today, and address what many are calling a crisis for U.S. schools regarding chronically low scores in math and science indicators.

In many ways the six kids simultaneously fit and break national stereotypes.

Take Rohit in Bangalore. He is under intense pressure from his folks to get into a top engineering university but blows off steam singing with his “boy band” and dreams of sending demos out to record companies. In Shanghai we meet math whiz Xiaoyuan, who, while awaiting word from Yale to see if she gained early acceptance, tries out as a violinist for the top music conservatory in Shanghai.

In Indianapolis we go to school with Neil. The senior class president and former star quarterback who gave up football to focus more on his studies. He has cruised through school, but now, with a full academic scholarship to Purdue University, wonders if he is up to the college challenge. The other students profiled in the documentary -Ruizhang, Brittany and Apoorva – face many of these universal adolescent pressures as well.

To put these narratives in context we have assembled an array of interviews with specialists like former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, Congressman Bart Gordon, chair of the House Committee on Science, Harvard economist Richard Freeman as well as top Indian CEOs, and leading scientists in America.

Statistics for American high school students give rise to concern for our student’s education in math and science. Less than 40 percent of U.S. students take a science course more rigorous than general biology, and a mere 18 percent take advanced classes in physics, chemistry or biology. Only 45 percent of U.S. students take math coursework beyond two years of algebra and one year of geometry. And 50 percent of all college freshmen require remedial coursework.

Meanwhile, both India and China have made dramatic leaps in educating their middle classes – each comparable in size to the entire U.S. population. Compared to the U.S., China now produces eight times more scientists and engineers, while India puts out up to three times as many as the U.S. Additionally, given the affordability of their wages, China and India are now preferred destinations for increasing numbers of multinational high-tech corporations.

Just as the Soviets’ launch of a tiny satellite ignited a space race and impelled America to improve its science education, many experts feel the United States has reached its next “Sputnik moment.” The goal of this film is to help answer the question: Are we doing enough with the time we have to ensure the best future for all?


Executive Producer

The Two Million Minutes storyline was conceived by Robert A. Compton and he also has served as Executive Producer of the documentary. Compton has had a distinguished business career as a venture capitalist, as former President of a NYSE company, as the entrepreneur founder of four companies and as an angel investor in more than a dozen businesses. Compton has traveled the world extensively. His trips to India in 2005 and 2006 inspired him to author a blog , publish a book – Blogging Through India – and to create the documentary Two Million Minutes.

Director and Editor

Chad Heeter joined Compton on this film project in the spring of 2006, as he was completing his Master’s degree in Journalism and Latin American Studies at U.C. Berkeley. Heeter has been the Senior Producer throughout the film making process.


Adam Raney joined Heeter as a Producer in January 2007. He also holds a Master’s degree in Journalism and Latin American Studies from U.C. Berkeley. The two have worked as reporters and filmmakers in Latin America, Asia, Europe and the United States. Their last project together was a documentary on Brazil’s landless movement for Frontline/World on PBS.org –http://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2005/12/brazil_cutting.html

Both Heeter and Raney have been interested in education since spending two years teaching as members of Teach for America. Heeter was a high school science teacher in Georgia, and Raney taught junior high science, English and social studies in New York City. Heeter also went on to teach in Japan.

Here is an interview with Bob Compton about 2 Million Minutes.

Watch trailer of 2 Million Minutes.

In 2007, we released the documentary film Two Million Minutes Chapter 1. The film was provocative and controversial. It compared the high school experiences of two teenagers from the U.S., India and China.

In 2008, we released two new documentary films – 2MM Chapter 2-India and 2MM Chapter 3-China. Both films take a deeper look into high school education in the three major competitors of the 21st century. 

In 2009, we released “2 Million Minutes: The 21st Century Solution.” A film that profiles the solution to America’s education crisis.

In 2010, we released “A Right Denied” featuring education reformer Whitney Tilson. This film documents the achievement gap within America between the rich and the poor.

In 2011, we released The Finland Phenomenon. Featuring Harvard researcher Tony Wagner, this movie explores the reasons behind Finland’s amazing success as the #1 ranked education system on Earth.

To see more videos from Broken Pencil Productions visit their YouTube Channel  


About CoffeeWithKath

Passionate about Technology in Education and how it can make a difference in the lives of students with Dyslexia. Founder of @ForDyslexia. Mom of twins. Juggling entrepreneurship and kids.

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