Sarat Chandra IAS Academy

Current Affairs of 5th November -2020

 

General Studies-2:

Issues related to health and Education

  1. Evolution of Education system and three systems formula
  2. What is RTE?
  3. Academic Freedom Index and the issues plaguing the country’s education system
  4. Components of AFI
  5. Fortified rice
  6. Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme
  7. Mid-Day meal Scheme

International groupings

  1. Mission Sagar

General Studies-3

Environment and Bio-Diversity

  1. Sri Lanka rescues 120 stranded whales

Economic Development

  1. Fall in exports

 

1)Evolution of Education system and three systems formula:

Why in news?

  • Towards the end of a recent webinar on the National Education Policy 2020, a retired civil servant asked a question.
  • Referring to Centre-State relations and roles in education, he asked whether the new policy gives the Centre a predatory role.
  • The use of the word ‘predatory’ felt a bit sharp in the context of education, but the intention obviously was to ascertain whether the new policy observes federal courtesy.

Evolution of Education System?

Before Independent

  • The system of education evolved in the provinces.
  • One hundred years ago, the Central Advisory Board of Education was created to co-ordinate regional responses to common issues.
  • The ‘advisory character of this administrative mechanism meant that the Board served mainly as a discussion forum.

After Independence

  • The Constitution, in its original draft, treated the States as the appropriate sphere for dealing with education.
  • India chose to have a Ministry of Education at the Centre.

Post-Independence

  • A more substantial sphere of the Centre’s activities in education emerged in the shape of advanced institutions in professional fields and schools specifically meant for the children of civil servants transferable across India.
  • These institutions received higher investment than the States could afford.

After 1975

  • In 1986, a decade later, when the national policy, was drafted under a youthful leader, it emphasised national concerns and perspective without specifically referring to provincial practices that indicated strong divergence.
  • Engagement with the states remained a function of the planning commission
  • The 1986 policy didn’t fully acknowledge the variety prevailing in provincial practices and the legacies those practices are rooted in.

After 1990’s:

  • Throughout the 1990s, those in charge of education remained hesitant to explain publicly how exactly liberalisation would apply.
  • The rapidly expanding and globalisation urban middle class had already begun to secede from the public system, posing the awkward question of why education cannot be sold if there are willing buyers.

Present three systems formula

  • India now has three systems.

First system

  • There is a Central system, running an exam board that has an all-India reach through affiliation with English-medium private schools catering to regional elites.
  • Two school chains run by the Centre are part of this system.
  • The Central system also includes advanced professional institutes and universities that have access to greater per capita funding than what their counterparts run by the States can afford.

Second System

  • These latter ones belong to the second system which also features provincial secondary boards affiliating schools teaching in State languages.

Third system

  • The third system is based on purely private investment.
  • Internationally accredited school boards and globally connected private universities are part of this third system.
  • These institutions represent a new level of freedom from state norms.
  • An explicit attempt was made under the Right to Education (RTE) Act to bridge the first two systems.
  • The RTE is a parliamentary law, providing a set of standards for elementary education and a call to private schools to provide for social justice via the quota route (25 %)
  • In higher education, such an attempt to balance private autonomy with an obligation to provide social justice is yet to be made in any palpable sense.
  • Accreditation norms and recognition procedures create a semblance of public accountability.
  • Coordination among the three systems has proved unmanageable, even in purely functional terms. The least we might expect would be a reliable mechanism to reconcile the marking standards of different Boards and universities.
  • Far harder is the coordination required in adherence to social responsibilities in a period of rapid economic change.
  • Inequalities have become sharper with the rise in overall prosperity.

Education must mediate between different social strata divided by caste and economic status.

  • The recent attempt made by Tamil Nadu to create a modest quota in NEET for students who attended government schools points towards an endemic problem exacerbated by centralisation.

What is RTE?

  • The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (RTE), is an Act of the Parliament of India enacted on 4 August 2009, which describes the modalities of the importance of free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India under Article 21a of the Indian Constitution.
  • India became one of 135 countries to make education a fundamental right of every child when the Act came into force on 1 April 2010.
  • The Act makes education a fundamental right of every child between the ages of 6 and 14 and specifies minimum norms in elementary schools.
  • It requires all private schools to reserve 25% of seats to children (to be reimbursed by the state as part of the public-private partnership plan).
  • Kids are admitted in to private schools based on economic status or caste based reservations.
  • It also prohibits all unrecognised schools from practice, and makes provisions for no donation or capitation fees and no interview of the child or parent for admission.
  • The Act also provides that no child shall be held back, expelled, or required to pass a board examination until the completion of elementary education.
  • There is also a provision for special training of school drop-outs to bring them up to par with students of the same age.
  • The RTE Act requires surveys that will monitor all neighbourhoods, identify children requiring education, and set up facilities for providing it.
  • The World Bank education specialist for India, Sam Carlson, has observed: “The RTE Act is the first legislation in the world that puts the responsibility of ensuring enrolment, attendance and completion on the Government.
  • It is the parents’ responsibility to send the children to schools in the US and other countries.

Value addition

  • The Right to Education of persons with disabilities until 18 years of age is laid down under a separate legislation – the Persons with

Disabilities Act.

  • Education in the Indian constitution is a concurrent issue and both centre and states can legislate on the issue.
  • The Act lays down specific responsibilities for the centre, state and local bodies for its implementation.
  • The states have been clamouring that they lack financial capacity to deliver education of appropriate standard in all the schools needed for universal education.
  • Thus it was clear that the central government (which collects most of the revenue) will be required to subsidise the states.

 

2) Academic Freedom Index and the issues plaguing the country’s education system:

  • India announced its National Education Policy (NEP) on July 29 this year.
  • The policy aims at overhauling the educational system in the country and making “India a global knowledge superpower”, with a new system that is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal-4 (SDG 4).
  • It also emphasises universal access to schools for all children, raising the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER), and ending the spiralling dropout rate in India.

Academic Freedom Index (AFI) and India’s Performance

  • India has scored considerably low in the international Academic Freedom Index (AFI) with a score of 0.352, which is closely followed by Saudi Arabia and Libya.
  • In the last five years, the AFI of India has dipped by 0.1 points.
  • Surprisingly, countries like Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil, Somalia and Ukraine have scored better than India.
  • Uruguay and Portugal top the AFI, with scores of 0.971 each, followed closely by Latvia and Germany

The many claims in NEP 2020

  • The AFI and the accompanying report quantify the freedom of scholars to discuss politically and culturally controversial topics, without fearing for their life, studies or profession — an aspect where India is failing terribly.
  • In such a scenario, it is important to look into what the NEP 2020 has to offer.
  • The NEP 2020 claims that it is based on principles of creativity and critical thinking and envisions an education system that is free from political or external interference.
  • For instance, the policy states that faculty will be given the “freedom to design their own curricular and pedagogical approaches within the approved framework, including textbook and reading material selections, assignments and assessments”.
  • It also suggests constituting a National Research Foundation (NRF), a merit-based and peer-reviewed research funding, which “will be governed, independently of the government, by a rotating Board of Governors consisting of the very best researchers and innovators across fields”. However, the question is whether these promises and offers will be put into practice or remain just a rhetoric.
  • The AFI has cited the ‘Free to Think: Report of the Scholars at Risk Academic Freedom Monitoring Project’, to suggest that the political tensions in India may have something to do with declining ‘academic freedom’.
  • The police brutality against students at Jamia Millia Islamia University and Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, and their being labelled as anti-nationals, has raised concerns about the state of academic freedom.

Eight components of AFI

The AFI used eight components to evaluate the scores:

  • Freedom to research and teach
  • Freedom of academic exchange and dissemination
  • Institutional autonomy
  • Campus integrity
  • Freedom of academic and cultural expression
  • Constitutional protection of academic freedom
  • International legal commitment to academic freedom under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
  • Existence of universities.

India has not fared well in components like institutional autonomy, campus integrity, freedom of academic and cultural expression and constitutional protection of academic freedom.

  • Interference from governments in both academic and non-academic issues.
  • It is common knowledge by now that a majority of appointments, especially to top-ranking posts like that of vice-chancellors, pro vice-chancellors and registrars, have been highly politicised.
  • Such political appointments not only choke academic and creative freedom, but also lead to corrupt practices, including those in licensing and accreditation, thus promoting unhealthy favouritism and nepotism in staff appointments and student admissions.
  • This reflects a ‘rent-seeking culture’ within the academic community.

Changes made through New Education Policy 2020

  • At present, many educational institutions and regulatory bodies, both at the Central and State levels, are headed by bureaucrats.
  • However, the NEP 2020 aims to de-bureaucratise the education system by giving governance powers to academicians.
  • It also talks about giving autonomy to higher education institutions by handing over their administration to a board comprising academicians.
  • This may help de-bureaucratise the education system and reduce political interference to an extent.

 

3) Fortified rice:

Why in news?

  • Children in anganwadis and government schools could soon be eating rice infused with iron, folic acid and vitamin B-12.
  • In a bid to combat chronic anaemia and under nutrition, the government is making plans to distribute fortified rice through the Integrated Child Development Services and Mid-Day?Meal schemes across the country from next year, with a special focus on 112 aspirational districts, according to a statement from the Food Ministry.

Concerns:

  • However, an existing pilot scheme to distribute fortified rice through the Public Distribution System Academic Freedom Index (AFI) in 15 districts has only been implemented in five districts so far, although more than half the project duration is over.
  • The Food Corporation of India has now been asked to come up with a comprehensive plan to scale up the annual supply of fortified rice from the current 15,000 tonnes to at least 1.3 lakh tonnes, said the statement.
  • The centrally-sponsored pilot scheme was approved in February 2019, and allocated a total budget outlay of ?174.6 crore for a three-year period from 2019-20 onwards.
  • However, only five States — Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh — have started the distribution of fortified rice in their identified pilot districts.
  • The remaining 10 States have only now identified their respective districts, and will soon start distribution, but less than one and a half years remain in the pilot scheme period.
  • The Ministry asked FCI to develop a plan to procure and distribute fortified rice under the schemes from 2021-2022, starting with the 112 aspirational districts.
  • Fortifying rice involves grinding broken rice into powder, mixing it with nutrients, and then shaping it into rice-like kernels using an extrusion process.
  • These fortified kernels are then mixed with normal rice in a 1:100 ratio, and distributed for consumption.

Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme

Children in the age group 0-6 years constitute around 158 million of the population of India (2011 census).

  • Ministry of Women and Child Development is implementing various schemes for welfare, development and protection of children.
  • Launched on 2nd October, 1975, the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme is one of the flagship programmes of the Government of India and represents one of the world’s largest and unique programmes for early childhood care and development.
  • It is the foremost symbol of country’s commitment to its children and nursing mothers, as a response to the challenge of providing pre-school non-formal education on one hand and breaking the vicious cycle of malnutrition, morbidity, reduced learning capacity and mortality on the other.
  • The beneficiaries under the Scheme are children in the age group of 0-6 years, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

Objectives of the Scheme are:

  • To improve the nutritional and health status of children in the age-group 0-6 years;
  • To lay the foundation for proper psychological, physical and social development of the child;
  • To reduce the incidence of mortality, morbidity, malnutrition and school dropout;
  • To achieve effective co-ordination of policy and implementation amongst the various departments to promote child development; and
  • To enhance the capability of the mother to look after the normal health and nutritional needs of the child through proper nutrition and health education.

Services under ICDS-

The ICDS Scheme offers a package of six services, viz.

  • Supplementary Nutrition
  • Pre-school non-formal education
  • Nutrition & health education
  • Immunization
  • Health check-up and
  • Referral services

The last three services are related to health and are provided by Ministry/Department of Health and Family Welfare through NRHM & Health system.

Mid-Day Meals Scheme

Mid-Day Meal in schools has had a long history in India.

In 1925, a Mid-Day Meal Programme was introduced for disadvantaged children in Madras Municipal Corporation.

By the mid-1980s three States viz. Gujarat, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and the UT of Pondicherry had universalized a cooked Mid-Day Meal Programme with their own resources for children studying at the primary stage by 1990-91 the number of States implementing the mid-day meal programme with their own resources on a universal or a large scale had increased to twelve states.

With a view to enhancing enrolment, retention and attendance and simultaneously improving nutritional levels among children, the National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education (NP-NSPE) was launched as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme on 15th August 1995, initially in 2408 blocks in the country.

By the year 1997-98 the NP-NSPE was introduced in all blocks of the country.

Central Assistance under the scheme consisted of free supply of food grains @ 100 grams per child per school day, and subsidy for transportation of food grains up to a maximum of Rs 50 per quintal.

Aims of mid-day meal scheme

  • Avoid classroom hunger
  • Increase school enrolment
  • Increase school attendance
  • Improve socialisation among castes
  • Address malnutrition
  • Empower women through employment

 

4) Mission Sagar:

Why in news?

  • Phase-I of naval exercise Malabar 2020, consisting of India, Australia, Japan and the U.S., began off the coast of Visakhapatnam in the Bay of Bengal on Tuesday.
  • The Navy also began Mission Sagar-II, under which INS Airavat entered the Sudan port carrying100 tonnes of food
  • Under the mission, India provides assistance to friendly countries during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mission Sagar-II

  • Mission Sagar-II is a follow-up of ‘Mission Sagar’ undertaken in May-June 2020, during which India delivered food and medicines to Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, Madagascar and Comoros.

Mission Sagar

  • Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR) was launched in 2015.
  • It is India’s strategic vision for the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
  • Through SAGAR, India seeks to deepen economic and security cooperation with its maritime neighbours and assist in building their maritime security capabilities.
  • Further, India seeks to safeguard its national interests and ensure Indian Ocean region to become inclusive, collaborative and respect international law.
  • The key relevance of SAGAR emerges when seen in conjunction with India’s other policies impacting the maritime domain like Act East Policy, Project Sagarmala, Project Mausam, India as ‘net security provider’, focus on Blue Economy etc.

 

5) Sri Lanka rescues 120 stranded whales:

Why in news?

  • Pooling their manpower and expertise in a joint overnight operation, Sri Lanka’s navy, coast guard, local volunteers and conservation experts have rescued nearly 120 stranded whales back into the deep sea.
  • On Monday afternoon, residents of Panadura — some 25 km south of Colombo on the island’s west coast — reported sighting a school of whales by the shore.
  • Locals played a crucial part in rescuing the whales, battling crashing waves in the dark, noted Sri Lankan marine biologist Asha de Vos said in a social media post, that likened the whales’ plight to “being stuck in a treadmill
  • According to MEPA authorities, the marine mammals were short-finned pilot whales that are said to be found in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.

 

6) Fall in exports:

  • Oct. Shipments dip 5.4%, imports slide 11.5%; ‘data reflects weak demand overseas and in India’
  • India’s merchandise exports slid back into contraction mode in October as struggling global trade continued to face headwinds from the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Outbound shipments declined

Imports shrink

  • Imports of goods also declined by 11.5% last month, as per preliminary trade data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry on Tuesday
  • Merchandise exports in the first seven months of the current financial year amounted to $150.07 billion, a 19.1% contraction from the year-earlier period.
  • “The trade data shows the recovery is uneven and fragile as exports declined both sequentially and year-on-year, pointing to a sluggish global recovery
  • The continuous decline in non-oil, non-gold imports are pointing towards very weak domestic demand.
  • Exports of rice (112%), chemicals (73.9%) and drugs and pharmaceuticals (21.8%) recorded the highest growth in October
  • While transport equipment and petroleum products saw the sharpest declines of (–56.3%) and (-53.3%), respectively.
  • Among employment-intensive sectors, gems and jewellery and leather also reported contractions while export of carpets jumped almost 38% and handicrafts grew by more than 11.3%.
  • Calling for a deeper analysis of the reasons behind the decline in exports of major export commodities over recent months, the Federation of Indian Exporters’ Organisations (FIEO) called for “urgent and immediate” action to resolve key issues that led to October’s ‘nominal’ dip.
  • FIEO listed a shortage of containers and an increase in sea freight charges as issues needing attention.
  • FIEO president also attributed part of the decline to farmers’ agitations in some States.

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