Insights Daily Current Events, 20 June 2016
Paper 2 Topic: Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
Panel on education policy wants UGC Act to lapse
A high-power committee headed by former Cabinet Secretary T.S.R. Subramanian, tasked with drawing a blueprint for a new national education policy, has recommended that the law that set up the higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) be allowed to lapse. The committee recently submitted its report to the Ministry of Human Resource Development.
Why scrap UGC?
The report says that the UGC has been unable over the years to effectively implement its regulations aimed at ensuring the quality of higher education in the country. Hence, the UGC act should be allowed to lapse.
Widespread irregularities in grant of approval of institutions and courses were also found by the committee. Also, there are serious concerns about the quality of education provided by a large number of colleges/universities. But, UGC has failed in its responsibility to monitor standards of education in higher education institutions and it has not succeeded in ensuring this. Besides, the credibility of the UGC has been seriously dented by approvals given to a large number of sub-standard colleges and deemed universities
The panel has instead suggested an alternative arrangement for a pruned UGC. The UGC could be revamped, made considerably leaner and thinner, and could be the nodal point for administration of the proposed National Higher Education Fellowship Programme, without any other promotional or regulatory function.
An expert Committee headed by Hari Gautam recently had examined thoroughly the past, present and future role of UGC. The report is under examination by the Ministry. The report had concluded that the UGC does not have the adequate number of personnel, of requisite quality, to be an effective regulatory force in the higher education sector.
Important recommendations made by the Subramanian committee:
- An Indian Education Service (IES) should be established as an all India service with officers being on permanent settlement to the state governments but with the cadre controlling authority vesting with the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry.
- The outlay on education should be raised to at least 6% of GDP without further loss of time.
- There should be minimum eligibility condition with 50% marks at graduate level for entry to existing B.Ed courses. Teacher Entrance Tests (TET) should be made compulsory for recruitment of all teachers. The Centre and states should jointly lay down norms and standards for TET.
- Compulsory licensing or certification for teachers in government and private schools should be made mandatory, with provision for renewal every 10 years based on independent external testing.
- Pre-school education for children in the age group of 4 to 5 years should be declared as a right and a programme for it implemented immediately.
- The no detention policy must be continued for young children until completion of class V when the child will be 11 years old. At the upper primary stage, the system of detention shall be restored subject to the provision of remedial coaching and at least two extra chances being offered to prove his capability to move to a higher class.
- On-demand board exams should be introduced to offer flexibility and reduce year end stress of students and parents. A National Level Test open to every student who has completed class XII from any School Board should be designed.
- The mid-day meal (MDM) program should now be extended to cover students of secondary schools. This is necessary as levels of malnutrition and anaemia continue to be high among adolescents.
- Top 200 foreign universities should be allowed to open campuses in India and give the same degree which is acceptable in the home country of the said university.
About University Grants Commission (UGC):
The University Grants Commission (UGC) of India is a statutory body set up in 1956, and is charged with coordination, determination and maintenance of standards of higher education.
- It provides recognition to universities in India, and disburses funds to such recognized universities and colleges.
- Previously, UGC was formed in 1946 to oversee the work of the three Central Universities of Aligarh, Banaras and, Delhi. In 1947, the Committee was entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with all the then existing Universities.
- After independence, the University Education Commission was set up in 1948 under the Chairmanship of S. Radhakrishnan and it recommended that the UGC be reconstituted on the general model of the University Grants Commission of the United Kingdom.
- The UGC was however, formally established in November 1956, by an Act of Parliament as a statutory body of the Government of India.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Parliamentary panel to review election code, suggests ways to curb freebies
The model code of conduct (MCC) for polls is under review by a Parliamentary Committee. It will suggest ways to check use of cash and other freebies to lure voters during the elections. The Committee is visiting three states to talk to various stake holders about it.
- The move comes after it took cognisance of the cancellation of polls in Aravakurichi and Thanjavur constituencies in Tamil Nadu recently following evidence of use of money and gifts to influence the voters.
The committee had, in an earlier report submitted three years ago, recommended reducing the time between enforcement of the model code and the day of polling. The panel had suggested that the MCC should come into force from the date of notification and not the announcement of poll schedule. However, the proposal is pending with the government.
Model Code of Conduct(MCC):
What is MCC?
These are the guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India for conduct of political parties and candidates during elections mainly with respect to speeches, polling day, polling booths, election manifestos, processions and general conduct.
Aim: To ensure free and fair elections.
When it comes into force?
The Model Code of Conduct comes into force immediately on announcement of the election schedule by the commission. The Code remains in force till the end of the electoral process.
The need for such code is in the interest of free and fair elections. However, the code does not have any specific statutory basis. It has only a persuasive effect. It contains what is known as “rules of electoral morality”. But this lack of statutory backing does not prevent the Commission from enforcing it.
The Commission issued the code for the first time in 1971 (5th Election) and revised it from time to time. This set of norms has been evolved with the consensus of political parties who have consented to abide by the principles embodied in the said code and also binds them to respect and observe it in its letter and spirit.
What it contains?
The salient features of the Model Code of Conduct lay down how political parties, contesting candidates and party(s) in power should conduct themselves during the process of elections i.e. on their general conduct during electioneering, holding meetings and processions, poll day activities and functioning of the party in power etc.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 3 Topic: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
Model for airport fees may increase passenger fares
According to a study, the civil aviation policy’s adoption of a hybrid-till model for calculating airport fees could push up airfares, by raising airport charges for airlines instead of bringing them down as per the policy’s stated objective. Airlines prefer a single-till model as it reduces their charges and passenger fees.
What’s proposed in the policy?
According to the new Civil Aviation Policy, future tariffs at all airports will be calculated on a ‘hybrid-till’ basis.
What is hybrid-till model?
Under hybrid-till model 30% of airport operator’s non-aeronautical revenues would be used to subsidise airport costs.
- This move may marginally increase costs at 13 other major airports (with capacity of more than 15 lakh passengers) such as Ahmedabad, Calicut, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, among others.
- This move also may revive private developer interest in running airports as the model increases their revenue.
So far, single-till model was adopted for determining aeronautical tariffs that can be set by airports, wherein passengers and airlines are charged less. Under the single-till model, both aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenues are taken into account to calculate passenger fee. Apart from its core operations, airports earn income from the non-aeronautical side which includes food and beverages, duty-free shops, advertising, car parking and hotels.
Sources: the hindu.
Paper 2 Topic: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.
Cell to help Korean investments
India and Korea have unveiled a Korea Plus initiative to promote and facilitate Korean investments in India. A memorandum of understanding for establishing Korea Plus was earlier signed between the Korean ministry of trade, industry and energy and Invest India in January 2016.
- The mandate of Korea Plus covers the entire investment spectrum including supporting Korean enterprises entering the Indian market for the first time, looking into issues faced by Korean companies doing business in India and policy advocacy to the Indian government on their behalf.
- Korea Plus will act as a mediator in arranging meetings, assisting in public relations and research, evaluation and provide information and counselling in regard to Korean companies’ investing in India.
Korea Plus comprises of a representative each from the Korean ministry of industry, trade and energy, Korea Trade Investment and Promotion Agency as well as three representatives from Invest India — the national investment promotion and facilitation agency of India.
Sources: the hindu.
Facts for Prelims:
- Willy Mutunga, ex-Chief Justice of Kenya till now, has been made Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Maldives. This has been done at the request of the government of Maldives against the backdrop of the Commonwealth’s concern over the political situation in the last few years following the arrest and detention of senior political figures, constriction of space for civil society and the media, and weakening of the separation of powers.
- Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar formally commissioned India’s first three women fighter pilots – Bhawana Kanth, Avani Chatuvedi and Mohana Singh – along with flight cadets of various branches of the Indian Air Force at the Air Force Academy in Dundigal recently. The three women have cleared the first stage of training and have about 150 hours of flying. After getting their wings as flying officers, they will train for six months on the Advanced Jet Fighter – the British-built Hawk – they will be assigned fighters and their squadrons. In February 2016, President Pranab Mukherjee had announced that all military combat roles will be opened to women in the future.