Background :-As the Right to Education (RTE) Act just completed five years of operation, it is time to take note of some facts. Kerala became the first State to achieve 100 per cent primary education, but in Uttar Pradesh, only 12 out of 75 districts have admitted students from disadvantaged groups to private schools. The Act mandates that schools reserve 25 per cent seats for these students. There are rumours that due to the pressure exerted by the private schools’ lobby, Karnataka may dilute the Act. A large number of Dalits, Adivasis and girls discontinue education because of discrimination in schools. And more than 60 per cent of urban primary schools are overcrowded, and about 50 per cent of Indian students cannot do basic mathematics or read a short story when they complete elementary education.
Equitable quality education
Universalising education involves issues of both distributive justice and quality. While the former concerns taking education to marginalised communities, the latter asks, ‘what counts as meaningful education?’
Considering that inadequate education affects the disadvantaged groups more severely, it is a possibility that these groups will end up with restricted opportunities and diminished outcomes given the market-driven economy we live in.
The RTE, therefore, entails the right to equitable quality education. It is with this aim that India enacted the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009.
According to the 2011 Census, the average literacy rates of people aged above 15 among Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are about 9 per cent and 17.4 per cent less than the national average, respectively.
The female literacy rate is 19.5 per cent less than that of males. This difference increases to 23 per cent and 23.5 per cent among the SCs and STs, respectively, indicating the double discrimination faced by Dalit and Adivasi women. The dropout rates among SCs and STs are significantly higher than the national average and more girls discontinue schooling than boys. Of course, there is a wide variation across States and the gap is wider in rural areas as compared to urban, but these statistics suggest significant inequalities in the distribution of educational opportunities.
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 reveals that enrolment in private schools has increased from 18.7 per cent in 2006 to 30.8 per cent in 2014. But has this increase been accompanied by a proportionate inclusion of disadvantaged groups?
The National University of Educational Planning and Administration’s 2011-12 report shows that only about 16 per cent of students from SCs and STs attend private schools and the average Indian household spends five times more money on each child annually if s/he is enrolled in a private school compared to a government school. It is reasonable to say that private schools are ordinarily more accessible to higher income groups.
ASER reports suggest that private schools fare only marginally better in terms of imparting quality education compared to government schools. While the ASER methodology of quantifying learning has been disputed, these statistics suggest that our education system has fared poorly on both equity and quality parameters.
The Constitution provides a flexible framework for a welfare state. Article 39 directs the state to frame policies that distribute the “ownership and control of the material resources of the community” such that it serves the “common good”, and “provide opportunities and facilities that enable children to develop in a healthy manner in conditions of freedom and dignity”.
While Directive Principles are non-justiciable, Article 37 commands that they shall be “fundamental in the governance of the country and it shall be the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws”.
Initially, universal elementary education was a Directive Principle under Article 45. The fact that it was made a fundamental right vide the 86th Amendment does not jettison the egalitarian perspective that placed it in the same scheme as other Directive Principles, particularly those under Article 39.
The Kothari Commission recommended a common school system (CSS) to “bring the different social classes and groups together and thus promote the emergence of an egalitarian and integrated society”. It lamented that “instead of doing so, education itself is tending to increase social segregation and to perpetuate and widen class distinctions”. This results in the “anaemic and incomplete” education of both the rich and poor as it forecloses sharing of perspectives.
The CSS was adopted by both the 1968 and 1986 national policies on education. While the interventions from ‘Operation Blackboard’ to Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan brought universalisation and quality to the forefront, the CSS was somehow relegated to the background.
The road ahead
The RTE Act provides for minimum quality standards and mandates 25 per cent reservation for children belonging to weaker sections. This provision has caused much debate. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has clarified that “the larger objective [of this provision] is to provide a common place where children sit, eat and live together for at least eight years of their lives across caste, class and gender divides in order that it narrows down such divisions in our society”.
Four caveats could be issued here. One, in conceiving ‘disadvantaged groups’, we must also include children of sex workers, transgendered groups, disabled persons and minorities. Two, equality also means the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Three, the government must not abdicate its responsibility to make its schools inclusive. If Dalit children sit separately and clean toilets and girls perform stereotypical gender roles, then we have only engrafted inequality and entrenched hierarchies. Four, education itself needs to celebrate the diverse ways in which knowledge is transferred and acquired.
As the RTE Act emerges from its nascence and education statistics continue to disappoint on both quality and inclusion parameters, the government is deliberating the first education policy post-1991. Its success would depend on how it socialises the private and provides a vision for an equitable quality education.
Brief History on Education in India:-
Calcutta Madrash established by Warren Hastings to study Muslim Laws
Sanskrit College , Benaras , by Jonathan Duncan to study Hindu law and philosophy
Charter act 1813
One lakh rupees annually
Raja Ram Mohan Ray and David Hare – Hindu College Calcutta
Indian learning inferior to European learning
Creating a class ” Indian in blood and colour but English in tastes , in opinion, in morals and in intellect”
Downward filtration Theory
Magna Carta of English Education in India
Asked govt. to assume responsibility of Mass education and repudiated downward filtration theory
Stress on Female and Vocational Education
Grant-in-Aid to encourage private enterprise
Bethune school for female education
University of Calcutta,
Agriculture University at Pusa, Bihar
Roorkee Engineering College
Primary and secondary education
Punjab University -1882
Allahabad University -1887
India Universities Act/ 1904
Retrograde Measures by greater control in universities functioning and affiliation
Saddler report/ 1917-1919
12 yrs School course
Secondary education to be emphasized
Separate board for secondary and intermediate education
University should function as centralized and unitary residential college
Hartog Committee /1929
Deserving student should go for higher education and rest should go for vocational training
entry to university should be restricted
Wardha Scheme of Basic Education /1937 (Zakir Hussain Committee)
learning through activity
basic handicraft in syllabus
first 7 yrs free education
child-centered and co-operative scheme
Hindi till 8th standard and English afterwards
pre-premary (3-6 yrs)
high school (11-17 yrs)
university (3 yrs course)
High school – academic and vocational
teacher’s training and physical education
12 yrs pre-university education
3 objectives – central, liberal and occupational
rural universities modeled around Shantiniketan
no over-crowding of colleges (100 students per college only
university education in concurrent list
University Grant Commission to be set up
UGC – 1953, statutory status in 1956
Kothari commission /1964
National pattern of education
National Policy on Education – 1968
Free and compulsory education till age of 14
3 language formula
6% of national income for investment on education
development of agriculture and industrial education
Maharashtra rolls out deradicalisation plan:-
To face the challenges posed by various home-grown extremists and the global Islamic State (IS) terrorists, Maharashtra state government has rolled out a deradicalisation programme for the minority community.
The plan, brought out by the State Home Department, is a 50-point socio-economic strategy with the aim of ‘bringing youth of the minority community into the mainstream’ and making coordinated efforts and policies in 13 sectors, including education, sports, urban planning, law and order, skill development, women and child, social justice, and health.
The proposed responses drawn up against the threat of home-grown extremism include: plans to teach religious texts from all sects in minority schools and teaching merits of democratic States and demerits of dictatorships as a separate chapter in the Urdu textbooks.
The plan aims to create an environment of solidarity and trust among the minority, and envisages different departments undertaking various schemes to reach out to the minority, implement a scheme a year, while setting aside 15% of their funds for the same.
The State police has been directed to deal with religious extremism in the strictest possible manner. Individuals and organisations disturbing communal harmony, spreading propaganda on social websites and services, will also be dealt with strongly.
The cops have been told to identify and reduce any feeling of communalism within the force and reach out to the minority community and win their hearts at all costs.
As per this plan, the State Education Department will launch a mid-day meal scheme in Urdu schools, provide textbooks at subsidised rates, and teach Urdu as optional subject in 300 Marathi shalas (schools).
Cabinet approves formation of Joint Venture Companies with State Governments:-
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for allowing the Ministry of Railways to form Joint Venture Companies with the State Governments to mobilize resources for undertaking various rail infrastructure projects in States.
Joint Venture exercise would ensure greater participation of State Governments in implementation of Railway Projects both in terms of financial participation as well as decision making process.
This will also facilitate in faster statutory approvals and land acquisition.
With this, various cement, steel, power plants etc. would also get the necessary rail link for transportation of their raw material and finished products.
Protecting India’s trade Interests:-
Twelve Pacific rim countries, in October 2015, agreed on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the largest regional trade agreement ever, which covers countries that account for 40% of the global economy.
The aim of TPP is to ease the flow of goods, services and investments among them, and to strengthen the rules on labour standards, environmental issues, origin criteria and intellectual property.
It is touted as the most ambitious of trade deals between these countries that have about 800 million people and account for 40% of the global trade.
Though not part of it, TPP still holds significant lessons and warnings for India.
Impacts on India:-
The TPP will likely affect India’s exports to the 12 Pacific countries. According to one estimate, trade worth $2.7 billion will be diverted away from India. This number could increase to $3.8 billion if South Korea joins the club. The costs could be even higher if India is unable to participate in global supply chains due to the TPP’s rules on standards, labour and environment policies.
Further, standardisation of intellectual property regimes across the TPP countries and rules on expropriation may make it more difficult for India to attract foreign investment over, say, a Vietnam.
The TPP has even altered India’s bargaining power and negotiating positions.
Way ahead for India:-
Concluding other free trade negotiations:
Impelled by the looming onset of the TPP, India should conclude, on a priority basis, its ongoing free trade negotiations. These include the India-EU Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement and the mega Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China and others. Benefits from these agreements will help mitigate some of the export losses that India may face in leather goods, textile, and plastics on account of trade diversion due to TPP. Aiming to diversify export destinations to hitherto untapped markets like Latin America and Africa would also help.
Protecting traditional knowledge:
India also needs to identify its trade interest areas and propose alternative negotiating templates. One such area is biopiracy, protection of traditional knowledge, and the link between the WTO’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity. There have been several instances of biopiracy in the past, of Indian traditional knowledge, such as the patenting of the wound-healing properties of haldi (turmeric). Being among the 12 mega biodiversity-rich countries, India needs to bring this issue to the negotiating table in its own free trade agreements.
Making products more cost-competitive:
On the domestic front, India should accelerate the process of making its products more cost-competitive. There is no denying that India’s infrastructural deficiency, including port congestion and poor road connectivity, is one of the main hurdles in attaining this cost competitiveness. Addressing these will have the dual effect of not only making India’s exports cost-competitive, but will also make them more attractive for international lead firms to integrate India in global value chains.
Having appropriate conformity-assessment procedures:
The government should launch a comprehensive initiative to enable Indian exporters to not only comply with standards prevalent in the importing market, but also demonstrate the compliance through appropriate conformity-assessment procedures. India should resist any attempt to converge its domestic public standards with the dominant private standards in TPP countries. If India’s public standards are harmonised with foreign standards, they will be equally applicable to domestic and export sales on account of the ‘national treatment’ principle of the WTO which prohibits less favourable treatment to imported products. The harmonised standards may result in most producers not only being excluded from export markets, but also being edged out of the domestic market, undermining the Make in India initiative in the process.
Ensuring WTO commitments are not violated:
India also needs to closely watch the regulatory regimes in TPP countries, ensuring that these countries do not violate their WTO commitments in the process of implementing the TPP. The WTO does allow a member to deviate from its obligations with respect to a free trade area; however, such a deviation is not unqualified. If a TPP country restricts the market access for non-TPP members such as India on account of higher labour standards, a potential violation of WTO provisions may arise, which India should not shy away from pursuing using the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism.
By not being part of the TPP, India will certainly incur losses on account of trade diversion. Yet, joining the TPP is not an option for the country. This would entail very heavy costs. Hence, the government should draw a cohesive trade policy approach on the international as well as domestic front, aimed at protecting and promoting India’s trade interests. Further, it needs to urgently strengthen its negotiating teams and re-establish its credibility to conclude big-ticket agreements.
India Signs an Agreement to Become an Associate Member State of European Molecular Biology Organisation
India through the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, has signed a Cooperation Agreement to acquire the status of the Associate Member State European Molecular Biology Organisation (EMBO).
This would strengthen scientific interaction and collaborative research between India and Europe in this field.
With this, researchers working in India are now eligible to participate in all EMBO programmes and activities.
Indian scientists can apply to EMBO’s programmes, such as long-term fellowships for postdoctoral researchers, short-term fellowships, courses and workshops, as well as the EMBO Young Investigator Programme.
EMBO is an organization of more than 1700 leading researchers that promotes excellence in the life sciences.
The major goals of the organization are to support talented researchers at all stages of their careers, stimulate the exchange of scientific information.