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UPSC CURRENT AFFAIRS – 21 May 2024

InstaLinks :  Insta Links help you think beyond the issue but relevant to the issue from UPSC prelims and Mains exam point of view. These linkages provided in this ‘hint’ format help you frame possible questions in your mind that might arise(or an examiner might imagine) from each current event. InstaLinks also connect every issue to their static or theoretical background. This helps you study a topic holistically and add new dimensions to every current event to help you think analytically.

Table of Contents:

GS Paper 3:

  1. Higher Education in India: Status, challenges and solutions

 

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

  1. Materiovigilance Programme of India (MvPI) platform
  2. Giant viruses
  3. Bacterial Pathogens Priority List (BPPL)
  4. SPECULOOS- 3 b
  5. World Bees Day
  6. Purnima Devi Barman Wins the 2024 Whitley Gold Award
  7. Pig Butchering Scam

 

Mapping:

  1. Strait of Gibraltar

 


 

Higher Education in India: Status, challenges and solutions

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: Government policies and interventions

Source: TH

 Context: Indian higher education is experiencing heightened politicization, posing a serious threat to academic institutions and intellectual freedom.

India boasts one of the world’s largest higher education systems, including prestigious institutions like IITs and IIMs. Despite its vastness, challenges such as quality and relevance persist. Additionally, increasing politicization poses a threat to academic freedom and intellectual discourse.

  

Status of Higher Education in India:

AspectStatus
Student EnrolmentOver 4 crore students enrolled in higher education institutes in 2021-22.
A significant increase from about 3.42 crore in 2014-15.
Women enrolment: Over 2 crore in 2021-22, up by 32% from 1.5 crore in 2014-15.
The highest proportion of women enrolment at the postgraduate level (over 55%).
Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER)Estimated GER for age group 18-23 years: 28.4%.
The primacy of Government InstitutionsAbout 73.7% of students attend government universities, comprising 58.6% of all universities.
State public universities have the largest share of enrollment (around 31%) among government-owned universities.

 

 

Primary Challenges in the Indian Higher Education System: 

  1. Politicization of higher education: Concerns rise over politicization in higher education, impacting autonomy in faculty recruitment, curriculum design, and resource allocation.
    1. g., Controversies around the appointments of Governors as Chancellors and Vice Chancellors, undermining institutional independence.
  2. Limited Funding: Interim Budget 2024-25 slashes education allocation by 7%, with UGC funding cut by 61%.
  3. Low R&D investment: It remains low at 64% of GDP, compared to China (2.4%), Germany (3.1%), South Korea (4.8%), and the US (3.5%).
  4. Uneven Regional Development: Higher education institutions are unevenly distributed, with states like Delhi, Tamil Nadu, and Maharashtra having higher concentrations of reputed institutions.
  5. Quality of Education: The quality of education in many institutions falls short compared to other developing nations.
    1. g. A study by the National Employability Report highlighted the industry’s perception of the outdated curriculum in many Indian universities.
  6. Faculty Shortage: There is a significant shortage of qualified faculty across institutions.
    1. g. AISHE data indicates a faculty shortage in many institutions, with a high student-to-faculty ratio.
  7. Lack of Research and Innovation: Indian institutions often lack a strong focus on research and innovation. For instance, India ranks lower in global innovation indices, indicating a need for increased emphasis on research and development.
  8. Affordability: Higher education is often unaffordable for many students.
    1. For example, AISHE reports show disparities in enrolment rates among different social groups.
  9. Equity and Access: A report titled “Gender and Higher Education in India: Negotiating Equity with Access” attempts to outline the multiple dimensions of gender asymmetries and discrimination that occur in higher education institution
  10. Inadequate Infrastructure: Many institutions lack the necessary infrastructure.
    1. g. According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2019-20, many colleges lack basic amenities, affecting the quality of education.
  11. Job Market Alignment: There is often a mismatch between the skills students acquire and what the job market requires. A report titled EMPLOYABILITY AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN INDIAN UNIVERSITIES shows that employability in the country is only 47%.

  

Impact on Quality:

  1. Skill Gap: The gap between the curriculum and industry needs results in a workforce lacking in essential skills.
  2. Inadequacy in Research: The lack of focus on research and innovation limits the country’s capacity to contribute to global knowledge and technological advancements.

  

Government Initiatives:

InitiativeDescription
National Education Policy (NEP) 2020Aims to overhaul the education system, and promote multidisciplinary learning, skill development, and research. Targets 50% Gross Enrolment Ratio by 2035.
Institutions of Eminence (IoE) SchemeLaunched in 2018, grants 20 institutions complete autonomy.
National Credit FrameworkIntegrates training and skill development into education, and stores student credits digitally.
Revamped Accreditation and Ranking SystemsNIRF ranks institutions, and NAAC ensures quality standards.
Digital InitiativesSWAYAM offers online courses, National Digital Library provides educational resources.
Study in India ProgramAttracts international students with scholarships and streamlined admission process.
Foreign Institutions in IndiaRegulations allow the top 500 foreign universities to establish branch campuses.
SHE under INSPIREScholarship to attract students to study basic sciences and pursue research careers.

 

Measures to Address Challenges:

  1. Infrastructural, Academic and Faculty Reforms: Improving infrastructure and implementing academic and faculty reforms can enhance the quality of education. For instance, the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) aims to upgrade infrastructure in higher educational institutions
  2. Increase Representation of States in UGC: Increasing the representation of states in the University Grants Commission (UGC) can help address regulatory challenges.
  3. Availability of Quality Textbooks in Local Language: Providing quality textbooks in local languages can improve access to education. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has been publishing quality textbooks in various local languages.
  4. Government Financial Support: Government financial support can make higher education more affordable.
    1. Schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Vidya Lakshmi Karyakram provide educational loans to students.
  5. Implementation of New Education Policy: The implementation of The NEP 2020 aims to overhaul the education system by introducing a new curriculum structure, promoting multilingualism, and focusing on skill development.
  6. Strengthening Quality Assurance Institutions: Strengthening institutions like the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) can ensure quality assurance.
  7. Digital Education: The Government of India has launched several initiatives like SWAYAM, an online education platform, to promote digital education.
  8. Public-Private Partnerships (PPP): PPP models have been successful in improving the education system. For example, the Delhi Public School Society operates schools in collaboration with private entities.

 

Other measures needed:

  1. Shift focus to practical skill development through project-based learning, internships, and industry collaborations.
  2. Encourage universities to engage in social development projects to promote civic engagement.
  3. Enhance the National Digital Library and promote open educational resources.
  4. Establish entrepreneurship and innovation centres within universities.
  5. Promote transnational education partnerships with international universities.
  6. Implement dual study programs combining theoretical learning with practical training.
  7. Adopt a competency-based credentialing system with blockchain certificates.

Conclusion

A revitalized higher education system will not only contribute to the intellectual growth of the nation but also position India as a competitive force on the global educational stage. It is an investment in the nation’s intellectual capital, fostering innovation, critical thinking, and socio-economic development.

 

Insta Links:

Mains Link:

Q1. How have digital initiatives in India contributed to the functioning of the education system in the country? Elaborate on your answer. (USPC 2020)

Q2. Discuss the main objectives of Population Education and point out the measures to achieve them in India in detail. (USPC 2021)

Prelims Link:

Q. Which of the following provisions of the Constitution does India have a bearing on Education? (UPSC 2012)

  1. Directive Principles of State Policy
  2. Rural and Urban Local Bodies
  3. Fifth Schedule
  4. Sixth Schedule
  5. Seventh Schedule

 

Select the correct answer using the codes given below:

(a) 1 and 2 only

(b) 3, 4 and 5 only

(c) 1, 2 and 5 only

(d) 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

 

Ans- D

Materiovigilance Programme of India (MvPI) platform

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: TH

 Context: The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), through a circular, has directed all device license holders and manufacturers to report any adverse events on the Materiovigilance Programme of India (MvPI) platform to mitigate risks and ensure public health safety.

 

About MvPI:

It was launched in 2015, and is overseen by the Indian Pharmacopoeia Commission since 2018. It serves as the National Coordination Centre, focusing on monitoring Medical Device-associated Adverse Events (MDAE) and raising awareness among healthcare professionals. MDAE reports can be submitted by various stakeholders, including clinical specialists, biomedical engineers, nurses, pharmacists, and patients.

 

About DCGI:

The Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) heads the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, overseeing the approval of licenses for specified drug categories in India, including blood products, vaccines, and IV fluids. DCGI operates under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and establishes standards for drug manufacturing, sales, import, and distribution in the country.

Giant viruses

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Daily Mail

 Context: Giant viruses, dating back 1.5 billion years, discovered in Yellowstone’s geothermal springs shed light on Earth’s early conditions.

A giant virus, also known as a “girus,” is notably large, with some exceeding typical bacteria in size. They are classified within the phylum Nucleocytoviricota.

 

These viruses, with unusually large genomes, offer insights into the environment during the emergence of life. Thriving in extreme conditions, they don’t infect humans but may have influenced the evolution of single-cell organisms. The study reveals ancient connections between these viruses and hot springs, suggesting their role in ecosystem stability.

  

Yellowstone, the oldest US national park, is renowned for its hot springs and holds UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage site status.

Bacterial Pathogens Priority List (BPPL)

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: Th

 Context: The World Health Organization (WHO) updated its Bacterial Pathogens Priority List (BPPL), highlighting critical priority pathogens that pose significant global health threats due to their resistance to treatment and ability to spread resistance.

 

About BPPL:

The Bacterial Pathogens Priority List (BPPL) is a crucial tool in combating antimicrobial resistance. Introduced by the WHO in 2017, it initially listed 13 bacterial pathogens to guide research and development efforts for new antibacterials.

The 2024 list categorizes 15 families of antibiotic-resistant bacteria into critical, high, and medium-priority groups to aid in prioritizing responses. Some high-priority pathogens, like Salmonella and Shigella, burden low- and middle-income countries, posing challenges in healthcare settings.

Antibiotic resistance, driven by misuse and overuse of antimicrobials, makes infections harder to treat and increases the risk of severe illness and death.

The WHO Bacterial Priority Pathogens List serves as a vital tool in combating antimicrobial resistance, updating rankings to address evolving threats.

SPECULOOS- 3 b

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: NASA

 Context:  Astronomers at the University of Liège in Belgium discovered an Earth-sized exoplanet, SPECULOOS-3 b, orbiting an ultra-cool red dwarf, 55 light-years away.

 

  • Exoplanets: Planets beyond our solar system, either orbiting other stars or free-floating.
  • Red dwarfs are the smallest main sequence stars, much smaller than the Sun

The star, roughly the size of Jupiter and twice as cold as the Sun, bombards the planet with intense radiation, likely stripping away any atmosphere, and making it uninhabitable.  The SPECULOOS project, aimed at studying ultra-cool dwarf stars, previously discovered the TRAPPIST-1 system. The newly found exoplanet orbits its star every 17 hours and is tidally locked, with perpetual day and night sides.

Purnima Devi Barman Wins the 2024 Whitley Gold Award

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: whitely-award

 Context: Dr Purnima Devi Barman from India has been awarded the 2024 Whitley Gold Award (dubbed ‘Green Oscar’) by the UK charity Whitley Fund for Nature (WFN) for her efforts to save the Greater Adjutant Stork (Hargila).

 

Conservation Efforts:

Barman’s campaign has increased the stork population in Assam from 450 to over 1,800. She has mobilized 10,000 rural women, known as “stork sisters,” to protect nesting sites and rebrand the stork from a bad omen to a cultural symbol.  The project has planted 45,000 saplings and rescued over 500 chicks. The global population of the stork has increased to approximately 3,180 birds.

 

About Greater Adjutant Stork

  1. Distribution: Known as ‘Hargila,’ primarily found in Assam (80%) and Bihar, India, and Cambodia.
  2. Habitat: Wetlands, nests in tall trees with closed canopies and bamboo clumps.
  3. Threats: Hunting, habitat destruction, felling of nest trees, and wetland degradation.
  4. Conservation Status: IUCN: Nearly Threatened (NT).
  5. Significance: The Greater Adjutant Stork plays a vital role in nutrient recycling and maintaining ecosystem health.

Pig Butchering Scam

Facts for Prelims (FFP)

 

Source: LM

 Pig Butchering Scams, also known as “sha zhu pan” scams, involve building trust with victims over time before tricking them into investing in fraudulent schemes. It is a type of long-term scam and investment fraud. For instance, scammers may offer attractive job opportunities or investment plans, creating emotional connections to lower victims’ guard.

 

Strait of Gibraltar

Mapping:

 

Source: BBC

 Context: A sailing yacht sank in Moroccan waters near the Strait of Gibraltar after being rammed by orcas.

 

About Orcas, also known as killer whales:

They are the largest dolphins, recognized by their black-and-white colouring, reaching up to 8 meters in length and weighing up to 6 tonnes. Highly intelligent and social, they use echolocation for communication and hunting.

While powerful predators, they are not aggressive towards humans in the wild. Pods, or maternally related groups, have distinct communication patterns. Orcas are listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List and under CITES Appendix II.

 

About the Strait of Gibraltar:

It is a vital shipping route connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and has been the site of recent orca attacks on vessels. It acts as a natural chokepoint between Europe and Africa.

 

Daily Current Affairs + PIB Summary (21 May 2024)

 


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