A widening learning gap
Source: The Indian Express
Written by: Wilima Wadhwa(head, ASER Centre)
Topic in the syllabus: Issues Relating to Development and Management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.. (GS-2)
Analysis about: This editorial talks about how the children from economically weaker backgrounds have fallen behind as classes shifted to the digital mode
- The Annual Status of Education Report conducted in September 2020, paid attention to a nationally representative sample of children of ruralareas and their access to learning opportunities during the period when schools were still closed.
- State governments as well as private schools tried to provide learning materials but, not much was known about whether children were receiving this material and how they engaged with it.
- It is important to understand what worked, and for whom. And to understand if this shift to remote learning will widen the digital divide and increase equity issues in learning.
What are the concerning things?
- Children from economically weaker backgrounds have very low learning outcomes.
- Children from poorer households generally have less educated parents who are unable to provide learning support like in richer households.
- Parents support their children’s learning in many ways — helping with homework, sending children to tutors or private schools, and spending more time with children. All these inputs contribute to the overall development of the child.
- Remote learning widens the learning disadvantage of poorer children.
- These children may not have access to devices like computers, tablets, smartphones etc. that are necessary for remote learning and, hence, may not be able to access the opportunities provided during the pandemic.
- ASER 2020 has found that children with low parental education are hardly have a smartphone.
- Other than textbooks, school systems provided a variety of learning materials during the pandemic.
- Overall, only about 35 per cent children recieved any learning material (other than textbooks) from their school. Reasons for this may be-
- A majority of children at the lower end of the income distribution are enrolled in government schools and govt schools were less successful at distributing learning materials as compared to private schools
- 87 per cent of children received learning material via one medium, predominantly WhatsApp (72 per cent).
- In other words, apart from having a textbook, children whose parents had less or no education, who most likely had learning deficits.
What is the way forward?
- It is clear that all children will need some remediation when schools open.
- Children from disadvantaged backgrounds, studying in government run schools, will require more help.
- States may use this opportunity to put in focused remedial instruction in all the schools.
- The collaboration between school, home and community in pandemic is a welcome step and needs to continue even after schools reopen.
The right to life & environment
Source: The Indian Express
Written by: Shloka Nath, Aaran Patel (executive director and engagement consultant respectively, India Climate Collaborative)
Topic in the syllabus: Polity(GS-2) | Environment conservation (GS-3)
Analysis about: This editorial talks about how India can build its own pathway out of the pandemic to become a climate leader.
- Over the last seven decades, India has made distinct progress, but many core development challenges (like climate change) persist and we are yet to fulfil our constitutional promise.
- Climate change will only exacerbate existing inequalities through a range of cascading and coinciding crises that devastate the poor, marginalised and vulnerable.
Constitution, Indian society & the environment:
- In our constitutional commitment to human rights, we also have a climate action charter.
- In his last speech to the Constituent Assembly B R Ambedkar asked what Indians must do “if we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact”.
- In his view, it was very important “not to be content with mere political democracy” but to strive for social democracy as well.
- Ambedkar believed that we required empowering, equitable and inclusive principles to govern our relationships with each other and the state.
- Some of the words from the Preamble — justice, liberty, equality and fraternity — serve as both hopeful and reminders of the daunting path to achieving social democracy, especially in a warming world.
How climate change affecting our lives?
- Climate change is profoundly unjust, it will increasingly impinge upon our freedom of movement, and that it could deny equality of status and opportunity to millions of citizens.
- The increasing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions may affect million of citizens, vast swathes of India could be inhospitable due to floods, droughts, heatwaves and increasingly erratic and unpredictable monsoon rains.
- The pandemic has given a snapshot of how health and financial systems could be completely overwhelmed by climate impacts.
What is the necessity?
- In order to tackle these challenges, fraternity or bandhuta, the more holistic word used in the Hindi language Constitution, is a reminder of how Indians must grow their interconnectedness.
- Bandhuta can particularly serve as a call to action for the powerful to direct their resources towards shaping India’s response to climate change and “assuring the dignity of the individual”, as framed in the Preamble.
- Indian business and philanthropy can play a key role in building resilience. It can enhance innovation, complementing the role of the state, and securing legislated rights of citizens.
- Climate philanthropy can help develop different solutions and inspire ambitious political action. This is crucial in the narrow window available in the wake of the pandemic during which India can build a green and just transition.
- A distinctly Indian, climate-friendly development paradigm powered by clean energy could play an integral role in fostering social and economic justice which can uplift millions of Indians.
What can we do exactly?
- Imagine rural livelihoods supported by clean-energy appliances like grain crushers and cold chains that build decentralised access to electricity, reduce drudgery and increase entrepreneurship.
- Envision pilot projects with urban bodies to create local area plans that develop more habitable& clean cities with renewable energy-driven public transportation, more pedestrian access and rejuvenation of green spaces and water bodies everywhere.
- We must equip and encourage people to think about the their future, as well as the privations of the present.
- The right to life enshrined in Article 21 is also interpreted as a right to environment. When this is read together with Articles 48A and 51A(g), there is a very clear constitutional interpretation to protect the environment that will only grow more important in the coming decades for people and the executive, legislature and judiciary.
- India and its citizens can build its own pathway out of the pandemic to become a climate leader aiming to secure a future where both people and nature can thrive.
- Much of this work can be rooted in the constitutional framework that binds together millions of Indians despite their mutual differences — a framework that is progressive in scope and very ambitious in vision.
Roots to government private thought partnerships
Source: The Hindu
Written by: K.P. Krishnan (a former Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, Government of India ,is currently the IEPF Chair Professor in Regulatory Economics at the National Council of Applied Economic Research. | Roopa Kudva (Managing Director, Omidyar Network India.)
Topic in the syllabus: Governance (GS-2)
Analysis about: This editorial talks about why it is necessary to leverage external expertise for better policy design and action.
What is Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana(PMKVY) 3.0?
- On an January 15, 2021, the Ministry of Skill Development Entrepreneurship (MSDE) launched the third phase of Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana i.e. PMKVY 3.0. to give a boost to skilling in the country.
- In this third version, the government will focus on matching local skilling requirements with local job opportunities.
- The focus of PMKVY 3.0is on empowering States and districts to implement skilling schemes by making regional level plans.
- The scheme will be implemented in two phases. The first is going to implement on a pilot basis during the 2020-21 fiscal year ,while simultaneously initiating the creation of framework for the second phase(2021-2026).
Why is it necessary to partner with private experts and other entities?
- The foresight and planning evident in the scheme’s guidelines shows the MSDE’s thoughtful approach towards revamping the skilling ecosystem in the years ahead.
- But, any plan of this scale requires multiple consultations and co working with different entities, including collaboration between the government and external partners.
- In last last few years, there has been evidence of the government and external partners working together on complex policy issues.
- Many central government ministries and entities, such as NITI Aayog, recruit private individuals as consultants, officers on special duty and young professionals.
- The role of this category of staff is mainly supporting the existing bureaucracy and providing them research and logistical support as and when the need arises.
- Given the staggering vacancies in the central government, such support is very important since civil servants are generally overburdened.
- Lack of capacity also often becomes evident in ordinary policy decisions and poor implementation of those policies.
What is thought partnership & why is it necessary?
- If capacity within the government is lacking, it is necessary to leverage the specific knowledge and resources of private individuals to forge thought partnerships.
- It is important here to note that thought partnerships are different from the recruitment of consultants to provide government officials additional manpower to manage routine tasks& work.
- Thought partnerships are a structured mechanism for private entities to give relevant strategic expertise to the government on policy design, evaluation and implementation.
Are there any examples of such partnerships?
- In 2015, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs constituted a research secretariat headed by the Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, to help the Companies Law Committee to make “informed decisions…on the principles involved as well as international practices in the field of insolvency, raising of capital, penalties, related party transaction sand other areas”.
- In 2018, the MSDE itself started engaging with multiple private firms such as Dalberg Global Development Advisors and SamagraTransforming Governance to design its vision for 2025.
What are the concerns?
- Establishing thought partnerships between the government and private entities are largely disparate and episodic.
- They do not provide the definitive& exact way forward on government-private collaboration.
- India faces a dearth of scholars and practitioners who are mainly focused on researching and solving India’s problems.
- From the government perspective, a practical & important question to be resolved in any such exercise which involves external partners, is funding.
- It is also not always feasible for the government it self to fund projects involving private partners, importantly when such projects are unconventional thought partnerships.
What is the necessity?
- Given this context, it is good if acommitted external partner funds the thought partnership without strings attached.
- Several domestic and international philanthropies and impact investing firms are already investing into critical sectors in developing countries like India.
The way forward:
- Policy choices made in isolation from the rigorous debate, research and questioning which
thought partnerships facilitate, can produce suboptimal & ordinary results.
- It is therefore in the public interest that more such partnerships are forged and funded to include external expertise and skills towards finding solutions to the pressing policy challenges the country faces.