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December 2018

Higher Education – RUSA, NIRF, HEFA, etc.

[op-ed snap] The need for reforms in the education sector


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: World Development Report, World Bank, PISA, OECD

Mains level: Need for reforms in India’s tertiary education sector


World Development Report 2019

  1. The World Development Report (WDR) 2019: The Changing Nature of Work studies was released recently
  2. It talks about how the nature of work is changing as a result of advances in technology today
  3. Technology is changing the skills that employers seek
  4. Workers need to be better at complex problem-solving, teamwork and adaptability

Importance of early childhood care

  1. The demand for certain skills is going up in today’s labour markets
  2. These skills include complex problem-solving and analysis, and social skills such as teamwork and relationship management
  3. Reasoning and self-efficacy are also increasingly important, particularly as they improve adaptability
  4. Building these skills requires strong human capital foundations—and building these foundations is especially important in early childhood development
  5. Most of these traits are learnt by infants up to the age of 5-6
  6. If children miss out during this period in life, it is hard to catch up
  7. These foundations can be established through effective early childhood development programmes and basic education
  8. Investments in nutrition, health and stimulation in the first thousand days of life build stronger brains

State of India’s education sector

  1. As per UNESCO data, India has one of the lowest public expenditure rates on education per student, especially compared to other Asian countries like China
  2. India spends $264 per student per year compared to $1,800 spent by China
  3. The World Bank report on its worldwide survey of public spending on education stated that India spent a meagre 11 percent of public expenditure on education, compared to 20 percent in China
  4. Education in most schools is one dimensional, with an obsessive focus on marks
  5. Added to this is the lack of availability of trained teachers at all levels
  6. Quality teachers are the missing link in the Indian education system
  7. Although pockets of excellence exist, the quality of teaching, especially in government schools, does not meet the standards

Need for education sector reform

  1. India needs to focus even more strongly on the quality of education it offers to its greatest asset—its citizens- its human capital
  2. For most children, skill foundations are formed through primary and secondary education
  3. Yet, the acquisition of foundational skills that one would expect to happen in schools is not occurring

Impact of investments in human capital

  1. Through investments in foundational human capital—India can prepare its people for the coming shifts in jobs, skills and market structures
  2. Lack of investments, instead, will leave future generations—especially the poorest—at a severe disadvantage, amplifying inequalities that already exist
  3. In the worst-case scenario, this might create instability when rising aspirations are met with frustration instead of an opportunity

India’s efforts at building human capital

  1. A lot of investments in human capital have already begun in India and are likely to have a positive impact in the coming years
  2. The shift in the education sector towards more competitive federalism and results-based financing is expected to improve accountability and learning outcomes
  3. India’s agreement to participate in PISA is a major step forward in its policy landscape that will help rank India with global peers based on education outcomes
  4. PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) is a survey conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development to test education systems by comparing the test performance of 15-year-old pupils
  5. The two-hour test not only evaluates the cognitive skills of students in science, math, and reading but also assesses their ability to solve problems in new and unfamiliar conditions

Reforms required in the tertiary education sector

  • India’s tertiary education system is the second largest in the world, after China
  • It is home to more than 35 million students and over 50,000 institutions\\
  • The most prestigious institutions within this system have global standing and are responsible for making India a world leader in the high-tech sector

For this success to be taken to the next level, India’s tertiary education system needs three sets of reforms

  1. It requires more flexibility between the general and technical tracks
  2. More focus on building the skills
  3. Ensuring that specific universities become effective innovation clusters

Way forward

  1. Digital technologies are changing the shape of work before our eyes
  2. Emerging markets like India stand to gain—but they need to have the right skills at the ready
  3. Investing in human capital now and over the long term is an investment with profound implications for people’s future prosperity and for national economic growth

With inputs from the article: Why Does India Refuse to Participate in Global Education Rankings?

Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

[op-ed snap] Together in an uncertain world


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: European Union

Mains level: EU’s renewed focus on India and its effect on India’s diplomacy


New India strategy of EU

  1. The European Union recently released its strategy on India after 14 years
  2. The new document is sweeping in its scope and lays out a roadmap for strengthening the EU-India partnership, which has been adrift for a while in the absence of a clearly articulated strategy
  3. The 2004 EU-India declaration on building a bilateral strategic partnership, which this roadmap replaces, has not had much of a success in reconfiguring the relationship as was expected

Focus areas of new strategy

  1. The new strategy underscores a transformative shift in Brussels vis-à-vis India
  2. It talks of key focus areas such as the need to conclude a broader Strategic Partnership Agreement, intensifying dialogue on Afghanistan and Central Asia, strengthening technical cooperation on fighting terrorism, and countering radicalisation, violent extremism and terrorist financing
  3. More significant from the perspective of the EU, which has been traditionally shy of using its hard power tools, is a recognition of the need to develop defence and security cooperation with India

Struggling to build a robust partnership

  1. Despite sharing a congruence of values and democratic ideals, India and the EU have both struggled to build a partnership that can be instrumental in shaping the geopolitics and geoeconomics of the 21st century
  2. India’s relations with individual EU nations have progressed dramatically over the last few years and the EU’s focus on India has grown
  3. This is because individual nations of the EU started becoming more pragmatic in their engagement with India, Brussels continued to be big-brotherly in its attitude on political issues and ignorant of the geostrategic imperatives of Indian foreign and security policies
  4. Even as the EU emerged as India’s largest trading partner and biggest foreign investor, the relationship remained devoid of any strategic content
  5. It has now become imperative for the two to give each other a serious look

Need for the partnership

  1. In this age when U.S. President Donald Trump is upending the global liberal order so dear to the Europeans, and China’s rise is challenging the very values which Brussels likes to showcase as the ones underpinning global stability, a substantive engagement with India is a natural corollary
  2. There is a new push in Brussels to emerge as a geopolitical actor of some significance and India is a natural partner in many respects
  3. At a time when India’s horizons are widening beyond South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, Brussels is also being forced to look beyond its periphery
  4. As the wider EU political landscape evolves after Brexit, and India seeks to manage the turbulent geopolitics in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, both recognise the importance of engaging each other
  5. The new India strategy document unveiled by the EU, therefore, comes at an appropriate time when both have to seriously recalibrate their partnership

Way forward for India

  1. India needs resources and expertise from the EU for its various priority areas, such as cybersecurity, urbanisation, environmental regeneration, and skill development
  2. As the EU shifts its focus to India, New Delhi should heartily reciprocate this outreach

Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

[op-ed snap] Wage drag: on ILO’s Global Wage Report


Mains Paper 3: Economy | Development & employment

From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Global Wage Report, ILO

Mains level: Fall in wages of workers across the globe and its impact on overall economy


ILO report on wages

  1. The International Labour Organisation’s Global Wage Report has put into sharp relief one of the biggest drags on global economic momentum: slowing wage growth
  2. Global wage growth, adjusted for inflation, slowed to 1.8% in 2017, from 2.4% in 2016
  3. This is the lowest rate since 2008
  4. Across a majority of geographies and economic groupings, wage expansions were noticeably tepid last year

Impact of slow wage growth

  1. The obvious impact of this low pace has been on global economic growth with consumption demand hurt by restrained spending by wage-earners
  2. The acceleration of economic growth in high-income countries in 2017 was led mainly by higher investment spending rather than by private consumption
  3. In many low- and middle-income economies the average wage, in absolute terms, was so low it was still inadequate to cover the bare needs of the worker

Reasons for this phenomenon

  1. The intensification of competition in the wake of globalisation, accompanied by a worldwide decline in the bargaining power of workers has resulted in a decoupling between wages and labour productivity
  2. The share of labour compensation in GDP across many countries has been weakening
  3. The Washington-based Economic Policy Institute uses the U.S. example to buttress the argument that widening inequality is slowing demand and growth by shifting larger shares of income “to rich households that save rather than spend”

Way forward for India

  1. For India’s policymakers, the message is clear: to reap the demographic dividend we need not only jobs but wage expansion that is robust and equitable

Trade Sector Updates – Falling Exports, TIES, MEIS, Foreign Trade Policy, etc.

[pib] Kimberley Process


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kimberley Process

Mains level: International collaboration against illegal trade of Diamonds


Kimberley Process

  1. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) is the process established in 2000 to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream rough diamond market.
  2. It was ruled by UNGA Resolution 55/56 following recommendations in the Fowler Report.
  3. The process was set up to ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments.

Why in news?

  1. The KPCS Plenary 2018, was held in Brussels, Belgium in November 2018 and EU handed over the chair of KPCS to India from January, 2019.
  2. The next session is slated to be held in India as Chair. Botswana and the Russian Federation will serve as Vice-Chair during the period of 2019-2020.

India and KPCS

  1. India is the founding member of KPCS and is actively involved in KP activities to ensure that almost 99% of the diamond trade in the world is conflict free.
  2. India is committed to maintain KP as an efficient and effective process in order to ensure the conflict diamond free status.
  3. India is at the forefront in addressing the issue of differentiation between Natural Diamonds and Lab Grown Diamonds and ensure responsible business in this area.
  4. India chaired the Ad hoc Committee on Review and Reform (AHCRR).

Importance of KPCS

  1. This year was the fifteenth anniversary of KPCS. Since its launch in 2003, the Kimberley Process has contributed towards peace, security and prosperity.
  2. It has proven to be an effective multilateral tool for conflict prevention in stemming the flow of conflict diamonds.
  3. The Kimberley Process has made valuable developmental impact in improving the lives of most people dependent on the trade in diamonds.

Food Safety Standards – FSSAI, food fortification, etc.

FSSAI launches awareness drive on trans fats


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Issues relating to development & management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Eat Right Movement, Swastha Bharat Yatra, Heart Attack Rewind

Mains level: Read the attached story.


  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched a new mass media campaign in order to create awareness about trans fats and eliminate them in India by 2022.

Heart Attack Rewind

  1. It is a 30-second public service announcement to be broadcast in 17 languages for a period of four weeks on YouTube, Facebook, Hotstar, and Voot.
  2. It will also be placed on outdoor hoardings and run on radio stations in Delhi and the National Capital Region.
  3. The campaign will warn citizens about the health hazards of consuming trans fats and offer strategies to avoid them through healthier alternatives.
  4. This campaign will concentrate on the demand side (consumers), who in turn, will push the supply side (food manufacturers) to come up with various strategies in order to reduce and later replace trans fats.

What are Trans Fats?

  1. Artificial Trans fats are created in an industrial process that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils to make them more solid.
  2. Since they are easy to use, inexpensive to produce and last a long time, and give foods a desirable taste and texture, they are still widely used despite their harmful effects being well-known.

Why this move?

  1. Studies have recently shown that 60,000 deaths occur every year due to cardiovascular diseases, which in turn are caused due to high consumption of trans fats.
  2. Since the impact of trans fats on human health is increasing exponentially, it is very important to create awareness about them.

Other FSSAI Initiatives

  1. Heart Attack Rewind is a follow-up to an earlier campaign called “Eat Right”, which was launched on July 11, 2018.
  2. As part of the campaign, edible oil industries took a pledge to reduce trans fat content by 2 per cent by 2022.
  3. Later, food companies also took a pledge to reformulate packaged foods with reduced levels of salt, sugar and saturated fat.
  4. Swasth Bharat Yatra, an initiative started under the “Eat Right” campaign which started on October 16 and will end on January 27, 2019, will also seek to create awareness among citizens about trans fats.

A Move to adopt WHO guidelines

  1. In May this year, the WHO released a step-by-step guide for the elimination of industrially-produced trans-fatty acids from the global food supply.
  2. Since then, a lot of countries have made efforts to reduce the levels of trans fats and in some cases, have completely banned them.
  3. India is also moving towards same by first reducing the levels from 5 per cent to 2 per cent and then altogether by 2022.

G20 : Economic Cooperation ahead

G20 summit: India presents 9-point agenda on fugitive economic offenders


Mains Paper 2: IR | Important International institutions, agencies & fora, their structure, mandate.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: G-20

Mains level: International Cooperation to counter Fugitive Economic Offenders


  • Nineteen leaders of the world’s biggest economies and a representative of the European Union are set to meet on Friday and Saturday in Buenos Aries, Argentina as part of the Group of 20 summit.

9 Point Agenda

  1. India has presented a nine-point agenda to G20 member nations calling for strong and active cooperation among them to comprehensively deal with fugitive economic offenders.
  2. The agenda was presented by PM Modi in the second session of the G20 Summit on international trade, international financial and tax systems.
  3. The agenda rules for cooperation in legal processes such as effective freezing of the proceeds of crime, early return of the offenders and efficient repatriation of the proceeds of crime should be enhanced and streamlined.
  4. The G-20 forum should consider initiating work on locating properties of economic offenders who have a tax debt in the country of their residence for its recovery.

Call for Joint efforts

  1. India also called for joint efforts by G-20 countries to form a mechanism that denies entry and safe havens to fugitive economic offenders.
  2. Principles of United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime (UNOTC), especially related to ‘International Cooperation’ should be fully and effectively implemented asked India at the summit.

Greater role for FATF

  1. India suggested the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) should be called upon to assign priority and focus to establishing international cooperation that leads to timely and comprehensive exchange of information between the competent authorities and financial intelligence units.
  2. FATF should be tasked to formulate a standard definition of fugitive economic offenders.
  3. FATF should also develop a set of commonly agreed and standardized procedures related to identification, extradition and judicial proceedings for dealing with fugitive economic offenders.



  1. G-20 is made up of 19 countries and the EU.
  2. The countries are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
  3. The other invited members are Chile, Netherlands, Spain and representatives of regional groups of Jamaica, Rwanda, Singapore and Senegal.
  4. G-20 members represent 75% of international trade, half of foreign direct investment flows, half of foreign flows and 80% of global production.

Private Members Bill


Mains Paper 2: Polity | Parliament & State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges & issues arising out of these

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Private member’s bill, Parliamentary procedures related to passing of bills

Mains level: Various provisions in constitution to empower democracy


  • A Member of Parliament has recently said that he would bring a Private Member Bill in the Lok Sabha for the construction of a Temple.

Private member’s bill

  1. Members of Parliament other than ministers are called private members and bills presented by them are known as private member’s bills.
  2. A private member bill can be introduced by both ruling party and opposition MPs.
  3. They can introduce a bill in the parliament after giving prior notice of one month.
  4. The bill needs to be passed in both houses of parliament.
  5. Once passed in both the houses, bill needs to get assent of the president to become an act.
  6. By set tradition, President can easily exercise his absolute veto power against such bills.
  7. In Lok Sabha, the last two and a half hours of a sitting on every Friday are generally allotted for transaction of “Private Members’ Business”, i.e., Private Members’ Bills and Private Members’ Resolutions.

Festivals, Dances, Theatre, Literature, Art in News

UNESCO lists wrestling, reggae and raiho-shin rituals under “intangible heritage”


Mains Paper 1: Arts and Culture| Salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Intangible Cultural Heritage mentioned in the newscard

Mains level: India’s rich cultural treasure and ways to preserve it


  • Jamaican reggae, Georgian wrestling and Japanese rituals are among the six new elements added by UN cultural agency UNESCO to its list of “intangible heritage” for the world to treasure.

Chidaoba Wrestling

  1. From the border between Asia and Europe, in Georgia, it added Chidaoba, which combines elements of wrestling, music, dance and special garments.
  2. The practice encourages a healthy lifestyle and plays an important role in intercultural dialogue, according to UNESCO, which called its code of conduct “chivalric”.
  3. It noted that occasionally the wrestlers leave the arena with a Georgian folk dance.

Jamaican Reggae

  1. It is a style of popular music with a strongly accented subsidiary beat, originating in Jamaica.
  2. It became widely known in the 1970s through the work of Bob Marley; its lyrics are much influenced by Rastafarian ideas.
  3. Reggae contributes to international discourse on issues of injustice, resistance, love and humanity underscores the dynamics of the element as being at once cerebral, socio-political, sensual and spiritual.

Japan’s Raiho-shin rituals

  1. They are used to admonish laziness and teach children good behavior.
  2. Stemming from folk beliefs that deities visit communities and usher in the new year or season, local people dress in outlandish costumes and visit houses as deities.
  3. By performing the rituals, local people — notably children — have their identities moulded, develop a sense of affiliation to their community, and strengthen ties among themselves.


Intangible Cultural Heritage

  1. The term ‘cultural heritage’ has changed content considerably in recent decades, partially owing to the instruments developed by UNESCO.
  2. Cultural heritage does not end at monuments and collections of objects.
  3. It also includes traditions or living expressions inherited from our ancestors and passed on to our descendants, such as oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, rituals, festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe or the knowledge and skills to produce traditional crafts.

9 Indian Arts in the UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage


  1. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris.
  2. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms etc.
  3. UNESCO implements its activities through the five programme areas: education, natural sciences, social and human sciences, culture, and communication and information.
  4. It designates projects and places of cultural and scientific significance, such as:
  • Global Geoparks Network
  • Biosphere reserves (Programme on Man and the Biosphere (MAB), since 1971)
  • City of Literature
  • Endangered languages and linguistic diversity projects
  • Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity
  • Memory of the World International Register, since 1997
  • Water resources management (International Hydrological Programme (IHP), since 1965)
  • World Heritage sites
  • World Digital Library