TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Issues relating to development and management of Social sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.
A Low Learning trap
An unacceptably large number of Indian children are attending school but not learning enough. Now, research shows that this is not just an Indian problem but a global epidemic that threatens several low- and middle-income countries across the globe.
A global epidemic:
- New estimates from the Unesco Institute for Statistics (UIS) indicate that about 617 million children or six out of every 10 children are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.
- The numbers are the worst for sub-Saharan Africa where, according to UIS data, about 88% of children are not able to read properly or do simple math by the time they finish middle school.
- South and central Asia comes a close second, with 81% of children in the region not learning the basic minimum.
- In rural India, the latest edition of the “Annual State of Education Report” (Aser) shows that only 47.8% of class V students can read a class II-level text and only 43% of class VIII students can do class V-level arithmetic.
A moral crisis and not just learning crisis:
In its annual “World Development Report”, released late last month, the World Bank describes this as not just a “learning crisis” but a “moral crisis”—amplifying inequalities between and within nations.
International assessments of literacy and numeracy have consistently shown that students from low-income countries perform worse than those from high-income countries.
Even top performers from strong middle-income countries are ranked below their rich country peers, and are struggling to catch up.
The World Bank report points to Indonesia, which has significantly improved its performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) over the last 10-15 years—and yet, at its 2003-15 rate, will still take another five decades to reach the developed world’s average score for mathematics and another seven decades for reading.
Learning crisis despite high enrolment levels:
The learning crisis comes at a time when enrolment levels have increased across the board.
India has achieved near-universal enrolment and, globally, the gap between children attending school in developed and developing countries is closing.
So, access to education has improved but the quality of education hasn’t.
Why do some systems succeed while others fail?
Lack of resources may be one of the reason behing such failure.
But at the same time there are the success stories of post-war South Korea, or of Vietnam and Peru, Malaysia and Tanzania—which have only recently improved learning outcomes. Essentially, because the latter aren’t able to effectively integrate their key elements.
The World Bank lists four such elements—students, teachers, school administration and school infrastructure. If any one malfunctions, the entire system is threatened.
Fixing the ecosystem means tackling each element individually and collectively.
If children come to school sick or hungry, or if parents aren’t able to care for them, not just after birth but also in the womb, then their learning levels will be adversely affected.
Dealing with it:
Early interventions targeting pregnant women, new mothers and their infants can be particularly effective.
India’s integrated child development services scheme and the mid-day meal scheme are good examples.
The importance of teachers’ skills and capabilities receive little attention.
- Most developing countries struggle to attract the best and the brightest to their schools even when pay is competitive.
- Teachers, once hired, are given almost no training or professional development support, leaving them ill-equipped in the classroom.
- Education systems also rarely offer incentives to improve pedagogical skills, and instead add non-teaching responsibilities.
- In Ethiopia and Guatemala, only one-third of the total instructional time was used for teaching.
- In India, teachers from government schools double up as census workers and election officers.
School principals and school managements also suffer from similar problems. A 2015 study by Stanford University showed that better management produced better educational outcomes, and schools with greater autonomy did especially well (explaining at least in part the success of the UK academies and the US charter schools).
- In the developing world, school managements are rarely empowered or incentivized to improve learning outcomes.
- In terms of school infrastructure, the relationship between learning levels and learning aids and tools such as laptops and laboratories is often overemphasized.
- Several studies have shown that similar investments can produce vastly different outcomes, depending on how the investment is utilized. For example, one assessment of Brazil’s One Laptop Per Child scheme showed that more than 40% of teachers rarely used the devices in classrooms.
- A disproportionate focus on such inputs, and, by extension, inadequate attention towards outcomes, is one of the most important reasons why India’s right to education legislation has performed below potential.
For there to be a shift in policy and practice, one has to start with assessing outcomes. This is the World Bank’s top recommendation for making education systems more effective.
The ASER survey has highlighted the issues and there’s a long way to go. India finds itself at the bottom of the pile in any of the international assessments. Assessing, measuring and benchmarking performance is the first step. Ultimately, breaking out of the low learning trap will require planned action and evidence-based policymaking.
Connecting the dots:
- An unacceptably large number of Indian children are attending school but not learning enough. The issue of low learning trap is not just with Indian but is a global epidemic. The need of the hour is planned action and evidence-based policymaking. Discuss.
TOPIC: General studies 2:
- Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
- Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests
- Important International institutions, agencies and fora- their structure, mandate.
Nuclear deal with Iran: In question
West Asia is in a period of heightened uncertainty.
- Regional powers are scrambling to fill the vacuum created by the steady dismantling of the Islamic State’s sham caliphate across Syria and Iraq.
- Kurds, buoyed by their pivotal position in this race to Raqqa, have held an independence referendum, annoying Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian neighbours.
- Turkey continues its authoritarian descent, as its relations with Europe worsen by the day.
- In the Persian Gulf, a crisis within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), pitting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates against Qatar, has entered its sixth month, with no sign of resolution.
- Within Saudi Arabia, the young and ambitious heir to the throne, Mohammed bin Salman, is experimenting with an unpredictable mix of reform and repression.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a nuclear deal agreed between Iran and six major powers is in its second year now.
- It recognised Iran’s right to enrich uranium in exchange for a battery of tough, but time-bound, limits on nuclear activity.
- It helped defused a crisis that had burned since the 1990s, threatening to spiral into a war in the 2010s.
Critics of the agreement:
- The conservative forces in Israel, the Arab world, and the U.S. have denounced the agreement. They complained that it did not address Iran’s non-nuclear behaviour, such as support for Hezbollah and other militant organisations, and that the “sunset” clauses, which progressively relax the constraints on Iran over the next three decades, were too generous.
- Donald Trump has called the deal “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into”. Mr. Trump and members of his administration have repeatedly, but falsely, claimed that Iran is violating the agreement.
In case US denies the agreement:
The U.K., France, Germany and the European Union have all expressed their categorical support.
- If the U.S. re-imposes so-called secondary sanctions, which cover foreign companies, Europe would most likely take legal and diplomatic steps to protect its substantial commerce with Iran, even at the cost of a transatlantic crisis.
- China, Iran’s main trading partner, and Russia, Iran’s military ally in Syria, would defy U.S. sanctions with even greater enthusiasm.
In short, it would be virtually impossible to rebuild today the broad, multinational sanctions regime that helped push Iran to the negotiating table during 2013-15.
Futility of war:
Not only would a war fail to eradicate Iran’s nuclear know-how, it would have far-reaching regional consequences.
- Iran’s Revolutionary Guards could unleash Shia militia against U.S. troops in Iraq, and expand support to Afghan insurgents just as Mr. Trump’s surge gets underway.
- Saudi-Iran tensions would increase.
- The risks of a U.S.-Russia confrontation in West Asia would jump dramatically.
- Abrogation of the JCPOA would be devastating for Washington’s credibility in future diplomacy.
- All this would have negative implications for India. While Indian imports of Iranian oil have been falling regardless, the Chabahar project, scheduled for completion next year, could face fresh obstacles.
- Iran-Pakistan relations may also shift unpredictably, and in ways that work against Indian interests.
Connecting the dots:
- West Asia is facing a period of heightened uncertainty. In such a scenario the abrogation of JCPOA deal would only complicate matters. Critically analyze.
- US president Donald Trump is too critical about the nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers including US. In case the deal is not abrogated by US it would have negative implications for India. In this light discuss how India can get benefitted by collaborating wit European powers, Russia and China on the issue.
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