Relevance: GS Paper II (Education)
Theme of the Article
The reading and arithmetic abilities in rural schools are shockingly dismal.
Why has this issue cropped up?
The latest assessment of how children are faring in schools in rural areas indicates there has been no dramatic improvement in learning outcomes. This picture has emerged from the Annual Status of Education Report.
What ASER Report says
- While 53% of students in Class 5 in rural government schools could in 2008 read a text meant for Class 2, the corresponding figure for 2018 stood at 44 %;
- Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Kerala and Haryana did better on the arithmetic question with over 50% students clearing it, compared to Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and even Karnataka, which scored below 20%.
- A significant percentage of students were not even able to recognise letters appropriate for their class, highlighting a severe barrier to learning.
- REVIEW MECHANISM: Now that the ASER measure is available for 10 years, the Centre should institute a review mechanism involving all States for both government and private institutions, covering elementary education and middle school.
- PUBLIC CONSULTATION: A public consultation on activity-based learning outcomes, deficits in early childhood education, and innovations in better performing States can help.
- RTI: At present, children start learning in a variety of environments: from poorly equipped anganwadi centres to private nurseries. The RTI Act needs a supportive framework to cater to learners from different backgrounds who often cannot rely on parental support or coaching.
- INNOVATION: It is worth looking at innovation in schools and incentivising good outcomes; one study in Andhra Pradesh indicated that bonus pay offered to teachers led to better student scores in an independently administered test in mathematics and language.
The solutions may lie in multiple approaches. What is beyond doubt is that governments are not doing their duty by India’s children.
However, there are two priorities requiring action before the next round of India Skills is held.
Relevance : GS Paper III
Theme of the article
Skill India needs a sharp realignment if it is to meaningfully transform people’s life chances.
In 2013, India’s skill agenda got a push when the government introduced the National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF). This organises all qualifications according to a series of levels of knowledge, skills and aptitude, just like classes in general academic education.
Pillars of skill development
There are five pillars of the skills ecosystem:
- the secondary schools/polytechnics;
- industrial training institutes;
- National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC)-funded private training providers offering short-term training;
- 16 Ministries providing mostly short-term training; and
- employers offering enterprise-based training.
Efforts towards skill development
- Govt has mandated that all training/educational programmes/courses be NSQF-compliant.
- National skill competitions, or India Skills, is a commendable initiative of the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
- Teams will be selected to represent India at the 45th World Skills Competition, scheduled in Russia this year.
- Abilympics was included in India Skills 2018, for Persons with Disabilities.
- Sharda Prasad Expert Group report submitted to the MSDE in 2016.
- A majority of the participants in India Skills were from corporates and industrial training institutes; only less than 20% were from the short-term courses of the NSDC.
- Neither industrial training institutes nor corporates’ courses are aligned with the NSQF.
- If India Skills 2018 was only open for the NSQF-aligned institutions, it would have been a big failure. This indicates that the NSQF has not been well accepted or adopted across India.
- There is no clear definition of the course curriculum within the NSQF that enables upward mobility.
- There is no connection of the tertiary level vocational courses to prior real knowledge of theory or practical experience in a vocational field, making alignment with the NSQF meaningless.
- Efforts to introduce new Bachelor of Vocation and Bachelor of Skills courses were made, but the alignment of these UGC-approved Bachelor of Vocation courses was half-hearted.
- There is no real alignment between the Human Resource Development Ministry (responsible for the school level and Bachelor of Vocation courses) and the Ministry of Skill Development (responsible for non-school/non-university-related vocational courses).
- There is a need for more holistic training and the need to re-examine the narrow, short-term NSQF-based NSDC courses to include skills in broader occupation groups, so that trainees are skilled enough to compete at the international level.
- We must a reduce complications caused by too many Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) anchoring skill courses. For example, there is no reason to have four SSCs (instead of one) each of textile, apparel made-ups and home furnishing, leather and handicrafts.
- If we want Skill India trainees to win international competitions and if we want competitors to come from schemes of the Ministry, we must find a way to provide broader skills in broader occupational groups.
- Sectors should be consolidated in line with the National Industrial Classification of India. This will improve quality, ensure better outcomes, strengthen the ecosystem, and help in directly assessing the trainee’s competence. It might also bring some coherence to our skills data collection system.
- India could learn a lesson from Germany, which imparts skills in just 340 occupation groups.
- Vocational education must be imparted in broadly defined occupational skills, so that if job descriptions change over a youth’s career, she is able to adapt to changing technologies and changing job roles.
Skill India needs a sharp realignment, if India is to perform well in the World Skills competition later this year.
India, which had refused to join the West in isolating communist China and sought to befriend it, ended up in a conflict with Beijing.
Relevance : GS Paper II
(International Relations and Internal Security)
Is “non-alignment” a special attribute of Indian foreign policy? Given Delhi’s continuing preoccupation with the idea of non-alignment, most visible recently at last week’s Raisina Dialogue in Delhi, it seems it is.
The present situation of NAM
- More than a hundred countries are members of the so-called Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
- They swear, at least formally, by the idea of non-alignment and show up at the triennial NAM summits.
- But few of them think of non-alignment as the defining idea of their foreign policies.
- Even fewer believe it is worth debating on a perennial basis.
- India has certainly moved away from the straitjacket of non-alignment — in practice if not in theory.
Non-alignment belongs to the past, is “strategic autonomy” something unique to India?
- All countries, big and small, try to maximise their freedom of action.
- And the autonomy that a nation can exercise depends on its specific circumstances such as size, location, comprehensive national power, and the nature of the threats among many other things.
India’s trouble with alliances
- Indian foreign policy community continues to be troubled by the question of alliances and autonomy when it comes to dealing with China and the US.
- Delhi’s traditional fear of alliances is based on a profound misreading of what they might mean.
What do alliances actually mean?
- Alliances are not a “permanent wedlock” or some kind of a “bondage”.
- They are a political/military arrangement to cope with a common threat.
- When the shared understanding of the threat breaks down, so does the alliance.
- For example, to cope with the American threat Mao Zedong aligned with Soviet Russia in 1950. Two decades later, he moved closer to America to counter Russia. Now China is once again buddies with Russia in trying to limit American influence in Eurasia.
Present situation of international alliances
- Not many countries in the world today are members of alliances.
- The few alliances that have survived since the Second World War are undergoing stress on the supply as well as demand side.
- In America, President Donald Trump is questioning the costs and benefits of these alliances.
- Presidents Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Moon Jae-in of South Korea, both treaty allies of the US, hardly share American perceptions on the regional threat in the Middle East and the Korean Peninsula respectively.
India is a large and globalised economy with big stakes in all parts of the world. It should focus on a pragmatic assessment of India’s interests and the best means to secure them — including partnerships and coalitions — against current and potential threats.
The Afghan government would like to see India-China economic cooperation in Afghanistan that could boost progress and enhance human security
Relevance : GS Paper II (International Relation)
[900 words reduced to 200]
The likelihood of an American pull-out from Afghanistan raises the spectre of instability in Afghanistan, South and Central Asia..
Regional powers and Afghanistan
- China has a great interest in its stability.
- China would be adversely affected by war and chaos.
- China has gained considerable economic and diplomatic influence in Afghanistan.
- It is giving military aid to Afghanistan.
- It has invested in projects such as mining, roads and railways.
- It gave Afghanistan. observer status in the SCO.
- India supports China’s role in Afghanistan.
- India has certainly contributed much ‘soft power’.
- It assisted in building the National Assembly of Afghanistan.
- Indian has provided aid up to $3 billion.
- But India has been absent from regional diplomacy necessary to stabilise Afghanistan.
India- China cooperation in Afghanistan
- It could boost progress and enhance human security.
- India and China started a joint training project for Afghan diplomats.
- They could expand cooperation by facilitating Afghanistan’s full membership of the SCO.
- India and China should work together to build a secure Afghanistan.
In the final analysis, the growth rate depends on the investment rate and the productivity of capital or its inverse incremental capital-output ratio.
Relevance : GS Paper III (Indian Economy)
[1300 words reduced to 200]
Globally, the growth rate in 2018 was high but strong signs of a trade war emerged.
Situation of Indian Economy in 2018-19:
- Rupee underwent a severe shock .
- Agrarian distress accentuated.
- India’s growth rate forecast at 7.4%.
Major concerns with Indian Economy:
- INVESTMENT RATIO : The growth rate depends on the investment rate.
- Solution:Raise investment ratio and keep capital-output ratio at 4.
- BANKING SYSTEM:
- Non-performing assets (NPAs) are at a high level.
- 11 public sector banks are under PCA.
- NBFC system is under stress.
- Recapitalisation of public sector banks.
- More capital to banks outside the PCA framework
- EMPLOYMENT GROWTH
- inadequate growth of employment.
- no correspondence between growth and employment.
- new investment needed for increase in employment.
- EXTERNAL SECTOR
- What happens in the rest of the world affects India’s growth.
- Value of the rupee plummeted and capital outflows occurred.
- Strong growth in exports to manage CAD.
- Contain some of our large imports.
- A watch on India’s CAD is needed.
- AGRARIAN DISTRESS
- There has been fall in prices of agricultural products.
- Government should buy off the surplus.
- Arrangements to procure and store are required.
- Increasing productivity.
- Increased output and better prices.
- Consolidation of small landholdings.
- Marketing of agriculture produce
The contrast is bound to be made with the Congress’s promise of farm loan waivers.
Relevance : GS Paper III
Theme of the article
India has the capacity and the need for a basic income scheme.
A ripe idea
- The international debate on basic income has advanced considerably in the past five years.
- Experiments have been launched in countries of different levels of per capita income, which include Canada, Finland, Kenya, Namibia, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.S., with plans being drawn up in England, Scotland, South Korea and elsewhere.
India could take the lead
India has the technological capacity, the financial resources and, above all, the need for a simple, transparent scheme to liberate the energies of the masses now mired in economic insecurity, deprivation and degradation.
Feasibility of basic income
- Planning the phased implementation of basic income will be a serious but manageable challenge. It will require goodwill, integrity, knowledge and humility about what will be inevitable mistakes.
- If properly planned, it is possible to introduce a comprehensive scheme even in rural or urban low-income communities, without too much cost.
Basic income vs loan waivers
- Loan waiver will not alter structures and is bad economics.
- If one type of loan could be declared non-repayable, why not others? It would be a dangerous precedent to declare that one type of debt and not others need not be repaid.
- That is why a basic income would be a more equitable and economically rational way of addressing an unfolding rural tragedy.
- The beauty of moving towards a modest basic income would be that all groups would gain.
- It is essential to obtain local cooperation and awareness at the outset, and the backing of key local institutions.
- If the government is to go ahead, it should phase in the scheme gradually, rolling it out from low-income to higher-income communities, after local officials have been trained and prepared.
- The authorities should not select particular types of individuals and give it only to them. For example, if money is given only to women, men will demand a share; it will be divisive.
Basic income would not preclude special additional support for those with special needs, nor be any threat to a progressive welfare state in the long-term. It would merely be an anchor of a 21st century income distribution system.