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Daily Editorials

Can the NEP aid access to universal education?

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently, the Union Cabinet approved the new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020.

The new policy is in tune with the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all in the next 20 years.

The editorial discusses in detail about the new National Education Policy (NEP).

2. EARLY CHILDHOOD CARE AND EDUCATION

  • The NEP has set a 10-year deadline to make all children entering Grade 1 school-ready through Early Childhood Care and Education.
  • This is a very crucial aspect, as with every passing year we lose out some children.
  • During the initial years of schooling, the brain develops very fast, the child has a huge learning capacity, and therefore we should help them to learn as much as possible.
  • In this context, the deadline set is very crucial to meet.
  • However, this provision is already a constitutional mandate after the commencement of the Right to Education Act.

3. THE CONSTITUTIONAL ASPECTS

3.1 Part IV - Directive Principles of State Policy

  • In Part IV of the Indian Constitution, Article 45 provides for free and compulsory education for children
  • Article 45 states - The State shall endeavour to provide, within a period of ten years from the commencement of this Constitution, for free and compulsory education for all children until they complete the age of fourteen years.
  • Article 39 (f) of Directive Principles of State Policy in the Indian Constitution provides that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment.
  • Therefore Articles 45 and 39 (f) provide for free, equitable and accessible education to all the children.
  • The 42nd Amendment Act, 1976 moved education from the State to the Concurrent List.

3.2 Fundamental Right

  • The 86th Amendment Act, 2002 made education a fundamental right under Article 21 A.
  • Article 21 A - The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of six to fourteen years in such manner as the State may, by law, determine.

3.3 Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009

  • The act inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right.
  • Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1 April 2010.

4. FREE AND UNIVERSAL EDUCATION

4.1 NEP Provisions

  • The NEP aims at Universalization of education from preschool to secondary level with 100% Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in school education by 2030.
  • The NEP does not say anything about the last years' draft proposal to expand the scope of the Right to Education to include children in the age group 3 to 18 years in its ambit.
  • Many experts believe that the age of six at which the RTE Act begins, is a little late and instead should begin at age three.
  • Though the NEP document states to achieve universalisation of education, it remains to be seen how the government plans to implement it.
  • The policy has provided for a timeline to bring children under formal education at age of three due to the present practical issues with anganwadis and preschools.

4.2 Issues with universalisation

  • The NEP policy does not provide for regular schooling with well-qualified teachers but instead allows open schooling.
  • THE NEP has clubbed three years of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) with the Grade 1 and 2 of primary school and has termed it as ‘foundational literacy and numeracy mission’.
  • Experts have raised concerns over this as the anganwadi [worker] is not professionally trained and well equipped to be a teacher.
  • Some see this as an attempt by the government to abandon its responsibility of providing for a good, professional teacher for in the earliest years of a child's education.
  • The anganwadi workers in a way are replacing the parents of the children and therefore it is a good way to begin teaching the children.

4.3 Ensuring universalisation

  • The committee members of the NEP were clear that the policy should ensure very high quality of government education.
  • This is the only way forward to universal education as the private players in education will not open schools in remote areas where the strength if the children is very less.

5. PRIVATE EDUCATION

5.1 Pooling in all resources

  • The policy states education to be a public service, but also advocates philanthropic private participation in education.
  • Some experts have underlined that all existing resources should be devoted to ensure quality education to children and early childhood care to ensure universal education.

5.2 No discouragement to Private Education

  • The NEP does not discourage private education but only aims to strengthen the government education system.
  • In the last 25 years, private school education stands at nearly 50% and close to 70% of enrolment in higher education is in private hands.

5.3 Weeding out the non-competent

  • However, the concern is that there are not too many good players providing quality education in the private sector, and there should be a process to filter out the non-competent players.
  • Around the world, philanthropy and private sector exhibit great participation in education.
  • However, in India, there are many entities operating as not for profit but in reality, are working for profit and there is a need to weed out such entities as well.

6. COMAPRISON OF THE NEW NEP

6.1 Pedagogical alignment

  • The proposed +3+3+4 school structure has led to apprehensions that it could lead to exits at each stage.
  • This is a pedagogical alignment aimed to assess students at Grade 3, 5 and 8.
  • This is to ensure that the students have attained the outcomes designed for them.
  • The restructuring is an attempt to shift the focus on learning outcomes at different stages.
  • The NEP also aims to prevent the biggest dropouts that begin at happen from beyond grade 5.

6.2 Creation of School Complexes

  • The Kothari Commission spoke about a ‘school complex’.
  • It aims to have a collaborative synergy between high or higher secondary schools and primary schools.
  • The Higher Schools are better resourced while the smaller neighbourhood and primary schools become feeder schools for the high school.
  • This ensure quality education at all stages.
  • Presently the school complexes are used in a different sense altogether.
  • Under the name of consolidation, 14,000 schools in one State have been closed.
  • The NEP states that we should have larger institutions until the higher education and college level.
  • Some see it as an economic argument of viability and not taking the RTE of children seriously.

6.3 National Testing Agency

  • The need of a National Testing Agency is also under debate.
  • The NEP aims to dismantle old and build new attitudes and mindsets.
  • Presently there is a lot of anxiety and extreme competition in competitive exams like JEE.
  • NEP aims that only those who want to try for JEE need to study for it, the rest students should be given a chance to explore and experiment with new things.
  • Furthermore, higher institutions will have an increased autonomy in deciding the admissions which raises the anxiousness of both parents and students.
  • Some percentage of admission through NTA will also provide a partial level-playing field.

7. BROADENING INEQUALITIES

The NEP is silent of the question of a common school curriculum. Furthermore, the policy of imparting education in mother tongue is also open-ended.

There are arguments that such moves will broaden the inequalities.

7.1 Common school curriculum

  • While the NEP advocates equitable and inclusive education, however the provision of a common school curriculum finds no mention.
  • The NEP Committee discussed on the matters of different boards regarding a common school curriculum.
  • There is an exodus towards CBSE boards in many states but it is partially because the state boards are quite weak.
  • The NEP policy aims to strengthen SCERTs so that these boards can address the need of the children to be educated in their own context and culture.

7.2 Education in Mother tongue

  • The provision for imparting education in the mother tongue is also open-ended.
  • State governments have decided to impart teaching in the regional language.
  • However, there is a problem of areas on the borders of states.
  •  For instance, while the medium of instruction in Karnataka would be Kannada, a large number of population on the Karnataka - Maharashtra border speaks Marathi but reside in Karnataka, and on the Karnataka - Andhra Pradesh border where children speak Telugu, etc.
  • Education should be provided in the dominant language of the community but this would be a hindrance in transferring teachers by the State governments.
  • The idea of the move is to allow local schools to use the local language as the medium of instruction, but the success of the move remains to be seen, as education is also a state subject.

8. LACUANE IS NEP

8.1 Vocational Education

  • Many experts have argued that the thrust on vocational education will weaken the students academically and will even perpetuate hereditary occupations and lead to early exits.
  • Present vocational education in India has no element of education attached to it.
  • It is largely skill-based and based on a hierarchy between knowledge for some and skill for the others.
  • Some experts have shown concern regarding clubbing of grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 and given vocational courses.
  • This might lead to a lot of dropping out, pushing children away into vocational courses or open school.

8.2 Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Group (SEDG)

  • A disadvantage is historical and social.
  • Clubbing everyone under a single SEDG and shying away from using words as ‘Dalit’ or ‘minority’ denies the acknowledgment of the issue.
  • Ii is because of this that many experts feel that the broad categorisation of Socio-Economically Disadvantaged Group (SEDG) will hamper equality.
  • It leads to a failure to understand diverse social realities and disadvantages.

9. COMPARISON OF INDIAN EDUCATION WITH FOREIGN EDUCATION

  • Foreign education focus more on practical based learning and creativity while Indian education focuses more on theory.
  • Education in India is not like education in foreign countries where education is a learning process.
  • The curriculum in foreign education is wholesome encompassing sports along with education.
    • USA has arts, sports, music and theatre in the syllabus.
    • Australia focuses more on sports and have cricket, hockey and boxing in their college curriculum.
    • There is very less scope for extracurricular in the Indian education system.
  • While education is free and public in most countries for instance, in Dubai, primary and secondary education is free and made compulsory under law.
  • Education in India is increasingly becoming a business enterprise from privatization of education to tuitions and coaching institute.
  • In India, students rarely pick up education streams according to their field of interest and opt for streams that have better remunerative prospects.
  • The education system in India is slow in adopting the latest technologies in the curriculum while in foreign lands, the curriculum moves hand in hand with technology upgrades and industry requirements.
  • Education in India focuses on memorisation of facts and figures, while education in foreign countries impart knowledge through practical implementation.
  • There are many drawbacks in the present education system in India and one hopes that the new National Education Policy 2020 is a step in addressing this situation.

Taking nuclear vulnerabilities seriously

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Seventy-five years ago on August 6, 1945 the atom bomb was first used against Japan in the city of Hiroshima.

After the detonation of nuclear weapons on Japan in the World War-II, the nuclear weapons have not been used ever since. However, the threat of a nuclear war is always looming and has led to a blind race is acquiring and upgrading nuclear weapons.

This editorial discusses the concept of nuclear deterrence and argues for the possibility of the failure of the idea.

2. USE OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS

2.1 Hiroshima and Nagasaki

  • Seventy-five years ago on August 6 and 9, 1945 the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were destroyed by detonation of nuclear weapons by the United States.
  • 2,00,000 people were killed due to the two nuclear bombs, some were killed instantaneously, while others over the next five months.
  • Another 2,00,000 people who albeit injured, survived the two bombings have been called the hibakusha.

2.2 The Hibakusha

  • The long-lasting effects of radiation exposure combined with the mental trauma had resulted in a difficult plight of the survivors.
  • Many hibakushas have lived on and spread their plight and experiences in the hope that nobody else experiences the hardships they underwent.

2.3 Last use of atomic bombs

  • In the present world order, nobody can say with certainty that Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be the last two cities to have been destroyed by nuclear weapons.
  • Ever since the first use of nuclear bombs in 1945, many countries have armed themselves with nuclear weapons that are more destructive than the ones that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  • These include the United States, the Soviet Union (Russia), the United Kingdom, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.

3. DAMAGE AND VULNERABILITY

3.1 Nuclear Weapons - the numbers

  • Since the beginning of atomic age, more than 1,26,000 nuclear weapons have been built.
  • Out of these, nearly 2,000 have been used in nuclear tests both above and below ground in order to demonstrate their explosive power.
  • This has caused great and long lasting damage to the environment and human health.
  • However, this damage is insignificant compared to the damage that can be caused if nuclear weapons are used against civilian populations.

3.2 Nuclear vulnerability

  • A realisation of the damaging and destructive potential of the nuclear weapons and an apprehension that these weapons could be used any moment against any target around the world instils a sense of vulnerability.
  • This vulnerability is further intensified with the realisation that whether the nuclear weapons are used deliberately, inadvertently, or accidentally, there is no realistic way to protect ourselves from these weapons.

3.3 The ballistic missiles

  • After the ballistic missiles were invented by the end of 1950s, it has become impossible to intercept nuclear weapons after they are launched due to the great speed of delivery of the ballistic missiles.
  • Neither fallout shelters nor any ballistic missile defence system has the ability to address this vulnerability.
  • Another case of vulnerability is that while nuclear weapon states areoften the targets of other nuclear weapon states, the non-nuclear weapon states are also exposed to nuclear-vulnerability in the fallout.

4. THE PROBLEMS OF DETERRENCE

4.1 Idea of deterrence

  • Nuclear weapon states have addressed the vulnerability arising out of nuclear weapons by the comforting idea of deterrence.
  • The idea suggests that the use of nuclear weapons is impossible because of deterrence.
  • The destruction power of the nuclear weapons is so huge that no country will use it out of the fear of similar retaliation and hence no political leader would put the lives of millions of their citizen at risk.

4.2 Deterrence does not always work

  • The proponents of the idea of deterrence take it a step further to claim that nuclear weapons not only protect the nuclear-armed state against the use of nuclear weapons by others, but also prevent wars of and ensure peace and stability.
  • However, the experience with nuclear deterrence has been contrary to the claims.
  • Nuclear threats have not always produced fear, which in turn has not always induced caution.
  • On the contrary, nuclear threats have yielded anger and frustration and at times havetriggered escalation as in the case with Fidel Castro during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

4.3 Deterrence of conventional weapons

  • The apparent effectiveness of deterrence as seen in some case is due to the more credible prospect of retaliation with conventional weapons.
  • Infact, nuclear armed states have waged wars more often, sometimes even with other nuclear armed states, although in a limited fashion or through proxies.
  • Hence, countries do not always show restraint.

4.4 Stability of nuclear deterrence

  • Nuclear deterrence is also not stable.
  • Strategic planners often consider worst-case scenarios in their planning.
  • Such worst-case assumption of intentions and capabilities of other nuclear-armed countries has argued for the acquisition of greater destructive capabilities and has driven an endless race for upgrading of the nuclear weapons.
  • Such arguments have also been used by non-nuclear states to acquire nuclear weapons.

4.5 Possibility of nuclear war

  • All nuclear weapon states have tacitly admitted to the possibility that nuclear deterrence could fail and have already made preparations for fighting a nuclear war as a consequence.
  • The disconnect between possession of nuclear weapons for deterrence and the reality of keeping these weapons primed for use has been at times eloquently clarified by military generals and personnel at the helm of strategic nuclear forces of nuclear armed states.
  • Many of these military personnel have stated that it would be an illusion to think that nuclear war is impossible.

5. THE ILLUSION OF CONTROL

  • The controllability of nuclear weapons is another related concern.
  • It is not possible for the strategic planners to have complete control in the real world.
  • In fact, this belief in the perfect controllability and safety of nuclear weapons has created a dangerous overconfidence which is more likely to cause accidents and possibly to the use of nuclear weapons.
  • Several historical instances have shown that it was either the failure of the nuclear weapons or factors outside institutional control and not complete control practices that has prevented the use of nuclear weapons.
  • The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 is a perfect testimony to this.

6. CONCLUSION

A simple yet astounding question one is bound to think is that if not deterrence, what has prevented nuclear war so far.

While an answer to this question would require diverse and contingent factors but many experts suggest that an essential element in key episodes is just plain luck.

The case of the Cuban Missile Crisis is again the best illustration to the role of luck, as about forty years of scholarship on the matter has attest to the crucial role of luck.

However, we cannot solely rely on luck indefinitely.

The global leadership should hold talks to contain nuclear proliferation and lead humanity in an era of everlasting peace and security from the perpetual looming nuclear threat.

Draft Policy seeking self-reliance for India in defence production

1. CONTEXT OF THE NEWS

Recently, the defence ministry unveiled a draft defence production and export promotion policy (DPEPP 2020).

The stated objectives of the draft policy is to achieve a turnover of 1,75,000 Crores ($ 25 billion), including export of Rs 35,000 Crore ($ 5 billion) in aerospace and defence goods and services by 2025.

This editorial analyses India's present defence industrial base (DIB) and the details of the draft policy.

2. INDIA’S VULNERABLE POSITION

2.1 Annual defence budget for India

  • India's annual defence budget is around $70 billion, which ranks third, globally, only after the US ($732 billion) and China ($261 billion) in terms of military expenditure.

2.2 Largest arms importer

  • India is also one of the largest buyer of foreign weaponry around the world, second only to Saudi Arabia.
  • During 2015-2019, India accounted for 9.2% of the total global arms imports.

2.3 A vulnerable position

  • For the past many years, India has languished among the top three arms importers in the world.
  • Given its strategically vulnerable position, India now wants to build a major defence industrial base (DIB) to achieve self-reliance in weapon systems and to begin export to other nations within the next five years.

2.4 Previous draft policy

  • A draft policy on the lines of DPEPP 2020 was released in 2018 as well.
  • The 2018 draft policy had similar objectives but it did not yield any substantial results.

3. INDIAN DEFENCE INDUSTRIAL BASE

3.1 Size of Indian defence industry

  • Presently, the size of Indian defence industry is to the tune of Rs 80,000 crore with the contribution of the public sector standing at almost 80%.
  • There is no denying from the fact that India needs to immediately strengthen its underdeveloped defence industrial base (DIB) by getting the private sector to play a bigger role into defence production.

3.2 Public sector undertakings (PSUs) in Defence

  • Presently there are eight public sector undertakings (PSUs) under the Department of Defence Production and Supplies.
    • Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL)
    • Bharat Electronics Ltd. (BEL)
    • Bharat Earth Movers Ltd. (BEML)
    • Mazagon Dock Ltd. (MDL)
    • Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers Ltd. (GRSE)
    • Goa Shipyard Ltd. (GSL)
    • Bharat Dynamics Ltd. (BDL)
    • Mishra Dhatu Nigam Ltd. (MIDHANI)
  • Out of the above, five PSUs viz. HAL, MDL, GRSE, BDL and MIDHANI are wholly owned by the Government of India.
  • The public sector in India in DIB includes
    • DRDO and its 50 labs
    • four defence shipyards
    • five defence PSUs
    • 41 ordnance factories
  • These public sector undertakings also need a drastic overhaul to deliver cutting-edge weapon systems without huge time and cost overruns.

3.3 Need for developing defence sector

  • The ongoing military confrontation with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has further accentuated India's sorry state of affairs in Defence production.
  • To maintain operational readiness along the northern borders, the 15 lakh strong Indian armed forces has to depend on the import of a variety of weaponry and weapon system ranging from drones to assault rifles to missiles and ammunition.

4. PROVISIONS OF THE DPEPP

4.1 Overarching document

  • The draft DPEPP 2020 is envisaged as an “overarching document to provide a focused, structured and significant thrust to defence production capabilities”.
  • However, whether the stated goals of the draft DPEPP 2020 can be achieved in five years remains to be seen.

4.2 Provisions of the draft policy