IASbaba’s Daily Current Affairs (Prelims + Mains Focus)- 6th April 2018
5.62 Lakh Indians affected by FB data leakage
Part of: Mains GS Paper II- Issues related to governance
- Facebook has said that 5.62 lakh Indians were ‘potentially affected’ in the episode involving UK-based data miner Cambridge Analytica.
- Only 335 people in the country had installed the application that leaked information to CA. This corresponded to 0.1 per cent of the app’s worldwide installations.
- The data-breach episode had sparked a furore in India, with Law and IT Minister warning the social media giant of stringent action for any attempt to influence Indian elections through data theft.
- The government sent Zuckerberg a show-cause notice on March 28, asking if the company, or its related or downstream agencies, utilised Facebook data to manipulate the Indian electoral process.
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General Studies 3:
- Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization of resources, growth, development and employment.
General Studies 2:
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Reforming the vocational education/training system in India
In 2016, the Government of India formed the Sharada Prasad Committee to rationalise the Sector Skill Councils (SSCs) and improve ‘Skill India’.
The committee submitted its report in 2016.
Now over a year later, it may be prudent to look at the reforms it suggested and action taken in the vocational education/training (VET) system.
Goals of ‘Skill India’:
- To meet employers’ needs of skills.
- To prepare workers (young and old) for a decent livelihood.
The Sharada Prasad Committee’s report:
The recurring theme in the report is its focus on youth.
Each recommendation underlines that-
- The VET is not just for underprivileged communities.
- It is not a stopgap arrangement for those who cannot make it through formal education.
It is for all of us.
Streaming for students:
It suggests concrete steps to ensure a mindset change, such as-
- Having a separate stream for vocational education (in secondary education).
- Creating vocational schools and vocational colleges for upward mobility.
- Having a Central university to award degrees and diplomas.
China, for instance, has such a separate stream after nine years of compulsory schooling, and half the students choose VET at the senior secondary level (after class nine).
A global alignment:
Aligning the courses to international requirements, ensuring a basic foundation in the 3Rs, and life-long learning is required.
- National standards for an in-demand skill set with national/global mobility that translates into better jobs.
Short duration courses (with no real skills) that provide low pay for suboptimal jobs cannot be called national standards. Hence the current national standards have to drastically improve.
- The focus should be in strengthening reading, writing and arithmetic skills.
No skill development can succeed if most of the workforce lacks the foundation to pick up skills in a fast-changing world.
As in other industries, the regulator has displayed a limited capacity to regulate.
- Cases of a conflict of interests, of rigged assessments and of training happening only on paper are not new.
- A recent parliamentary report on private ITIs reported that the number of private ITIs has grown from under 2,000 to over 11,000 in five years.
It points to failure of regulation, accompanied by a lack of quality training on offer at such ITIs.
- There is a huge ethics and accountability issue if there is no credible assessment board and when there are too many sector skill councils, each trying to maximise their business.
The Sharada Prasad Committee had recommended that the number of SSCs should correspond to the National Industrial (Activity) Classification (which has 21 economic activities across the entire economy).
Unification of the entire VET system:
This should be first policy step.
What we have today are fragmented pillars. An NSDC-centric focus has left the skill development efforts of 17 ministries out of the same scrutiny.
‘Skill India’ can have an impact only when all of them work together and learn from each other.
Enhancing employer ownership:
The private sector places the onus of unemployment on the government, treating it as a welfare responsibility, while the government looks to the private sector since it is the end consumer of skills.
The result is that only 36% of India’s organised sector firms conduct in-firm training.
- In this regard the committee’s recommendation of a reimbursable industry contribution model (applicable only to the organised sector) should solve the problem.
It could ensure reimbursements for those companies undertaking training while rewarding industry for sharing and undertaking skilling until everyone in the company is skilled.
India can surely become the world’s skill capital but not with what it is doing right now. The reforms suggested by the committee can be a good starting point.
Taking advantage of the Indian demographic dividend must be a key part of India’s growth story.
Connecting the dots:
- The Skill India mission needs certain reforms. In this light discuss the recommendations made by the Sharada Prasad Committee.
TOPIC: General Studies 2:
- Issues relating to development and management of Social sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Granting autonomy to educational institutions: Issues with the latest policy
A new scheme of greater autonomy to educational institutions has been announced.
- Depending on the NAAC scores the institutions will be slotted in category I, II and lower.
- There will be less autonomy as the rank declines.
- Those in the highest category will have the freedom to start new courses, hire foreign faculty and pay higher emoluments to faculty.
So, some will have more freedom but others will have even less.
Autonomy has been identified as the key to improving the quality of higher education in India. Would the current move lead to high quality higher education?
Can “standards be achieved by standardisation”?
UGC and its committees have become the arbiter of standards and all institutions are expected to fall in line.
This includes the points an academic had to collect under the API system to get promoted, the degrees and tests needed to become a teacher and so on. Teachers had to be upgraded periodically through training institutions. The entire structure of teaching-learning was progressively determined by the UGC. With each pay commission, there were more and more regulations and diktats.
The quality of education has not improved with all these standards. Institutions have deteriorated in quality.
Understanding what makes an institution great:
- Great institutions of learning accept that knowledge is not ready made and has multiple sources.
- Different people have different ways of learning and producing knowledge.
Someone may publish many papers each year while some may publish a seminal work in a decade.
Nobel Prize winner Higgs (God particle fame) said for the first 15 years at Cambridge he did not publish anything.
What is required?
- A multiplicity of approaches are needed for knowledge to advance.
- In higher education, a great deal of freedom is required to generate ideas.
What does autonomy mean in real terms?
Autonomy implies the freedom to pursue one’s own path of knowledge generation.
- Teachers in higher education institutions need to devise their own courses to teach the perspective they feel best reflects the subject — standardised courses, like in schools, are undesirable.
- Good teaching and research go hand in hand. This requires commitment which comes when academics have autonomy.
- Academic autonomy must filter down. The institution must have autonomy from external pressures, the department must have autonomy from the head of the institution and the teacher from the head of the department.
Why is the latest move not a step in right direction?
The latest move to provide graded autonomy to institutions will curtail the autonomy of academics in these institutions.
- The institutions will have to generate their own funds for many of the freedoms they are being granted. So, they would be subject to the dictates of the market.
- Consequently, professional courses may get money but not the core social sciences or sciences. There would be pressure to move towards paying courses.
- Those not catering to the markets would be marginalised and the generation of the socially relevant knowledge would decline.
The idea of becoming world class implies that our institutions would have to create facilities that prevail in the advanced countries to attract faculty and students from there. In a developing country like India, this would result in the drain of resources from other institutions.
The new policy confuses the autonomy of individual faculty members with that of the institution, that too truncated by the dictates of markets.
Connecting the dots:
- A new scheme of greater autonomy to educational institutions has been announced recently. Analyze how far the policy will help in making higher educational institutions in India ‘great’.
Expanding the SC ST Act
Was the SC right on the anti-atrocities law?
Consent is crucial
The health coverage challenge
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