Wednesday January 16, 2019
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India seeks drastic reforms, transparency in election of UN Secretary-General

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United Nations: India has called for drastic reforms in the election of the secretary-general to introduce transparency and choice in the process of picking a successor to Ban Ki-moon next year, saying it should not be a prerogative of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

India’s delegate Bhartruhari Mahtab told the Security Council on Tuesday that the secret straw polls in the Council should be done away with and discussions should be held in open sessions with the secretary-general providing a summary of the proceedings. Moreover, the Security Council should recommend a slate of two or more candidates on whom the General Assembly can vote, he said.

The UN Charter only says that the secretary-general should be appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council and a 1946 General Assembly resolution added a provision that only one candidate should be recommended and a debate should be avoided.

This has morphed into an arcane process in which the Security Council members vote on the candidate with colour-coded ballots — one colour for permanent members and another for the others. A ballot in the colour of the permanent members automatically results in a veto of a candidate while it won’t be known who cast the veto.

The candidate who gets a majority with the colour-coded ballots of all the five permanent members is recommended to the General Assembly and its vote to approve the candidate is a given.

To make the election transparent, “an important step would also be to do away with secret straw polls using different coloured slips that allow the P5 (five permanent members) to exercise the veto without even taking ownership of it”, Mahtab said.

“My delegation has pressed for the Council to recommend two or more names to the General Assembly,” he added. “While the pronouncements of the General Assembly do not specifically provide for this, there is — in our view — no legal impediment for the Council to do so.”

Mahtab appealed to the non-permanent members of the Security Council to push for changes in the way the secretary-general is elected.

Under the system of rotating the presidency of the Security Council, except for three months next year, the non-permanent will preside over the Security Council next year and it will be for them to decide on whether the selection of the secretary-general will remain the sole preserve of the P5 or not, he said.

Mahtab, a Biju Janata Dal member of the Lok Sabha representing Cuttack in Orissa, is one of the five members of parliament who are currently in India’s UN delegation.

General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft had told reporters after his inauguration last month that the secretary-general candidates will be presented to the UN members in a timely fashion and they will interact with them. “This will something happening for the first time in the history of the United Nations and I see that as a major step forward,” he added.

However, he sounded tentative on Tuesday only saying that he would work with the Security Council President to begin the process of soliciting candidates and acknowledged that there was “widespread calls for increased transparency, inclusivity and a more rigorous process in selecting the next chief of this Organization”.

On the issue of transparency, Mahtab said, “The most non-transparent of the subsidiary bodies of the Security Council is the 1267 Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee.” Named for the number of the Security Council resolution setting it up, the committee imposes sanctions on terrorists and terrorism supporters.

“No information is shared on the criteria of listing or not listing individuals and organizations on whom sanctions are applied,” Mahtab said. “It is our apprehension that there may, in fact, be no criteria at all. And that any of the 15 members may be allowed to exercise a veto without assigning any reason and without the wider membership being informed of their having done so.”

Earlier this year, China vetoed India’s demand for taking action under Security Council’s anti-terrorism resolution 1267 against Pakistan for releasing Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the Lashkar-e-Taiba mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attack.

“In April this year, the new Chair of the 1267 Committee organised a briefing for the wider membership of the UN and said that he would do so periodically,” Mahtab said. “No meeting has, however, since been held. His predecessor had also kept the work of the Committee cloaked in secrecy.” The current chair of the committee is Gerard van Bohemen, the Permanent Representative of New Zealand.

(Arul Louis, IANS)

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To Catch Up With China, India Needs To Focus on Improving Its Educational Outcomes

China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

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Children learning in a classroom, pixabay

By Amit Kapoor

Both China and India started building their national education systems under comparable conditions in the late 1940s. Different policies and historical circumstances have, however, led them to different educational outcomes, with China outperforming India not just in terms of its percentage of literate population and enrollment rates at all levels of education, but also in terms of number of world-class institutions in higher education, and greater research output.

The roots of China’s successful education system date back to the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), which unintentionally expanded access to the primary education through democratising the schooling system, which was previously elitist in character, thus addressing the problem of mass illiteracy.

In contrast, India continued to focus on its higher education system since independence and only realised the importance of basic education in 1986, keeping it behind China and many other countries in Asia in educational development. In terms of enrollment, China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

In terms of secondary school enrollment, India and China both started at the similar rates in 1985, with about 40 percent of their population enrolled in secondary schools. However, due to a wider base of primary school students, the rate of increase in China has been much faster than in India, with 99 percent secondary enrollment rate in China and 79 percent in India in 2017.

Happy kids in School Uniform
China reached a 100 percent gross enrollment rate (GER) in its primary education in 1985, whereas, India attained that level only in 2000.

India is closing in on the Chinese rate in terms of access to education, but on the literacy level front, there is a huge gap in the percentage of literate populations in the two countries. In the age group of 15-24 years, India scores 104th rank on literacy and numeracy indicator, compared to China’s 40th rank.

The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which assesses after every three years the domain knowledge of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, science and finance, revealed that students in China performed above the OECD average in 2015. Moreover, one in four students in China are top performers in mathematics, having an ability to formulate complex situations mathematically. Further, China outperforms all the other participating countries in financial literacy, by having a high ability to analyse complex finance products. For India, the comparable data is not available as it was not a participating country in PISA 2015.

However, in India, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017 provides data for rural youth, aged 14-18, with respect to their abilities to lead productive lives as adults. According to this survey, only about half of the 14-year-old children in the sample could read English sentences, and more than half of the students surveyed could not do basic arithmetic operations, like division. For basic financial calculations, such as managing a budget or making a purchase decision, less than two-thirds could do the correct calculations.

India
Schools in India

With regard to the higher education system, both India and China dominate the number of tertiary degree holders because of their large population size, but when it comes to the percentage of the population holding tertiary degrees, only about 10 per cent and 8 per cent of the population possess university degrees in China and India, respectively. By contrast, in Japan, almost 50 per cent of the population holds a tertiary degree, and in the United States, 31 per cent of the population hold a tertiary degree.

In terms of the international recognition of universities, the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking for 2019 places seven of the China’s universities in the top 200, compared to none for India. The global university rankings, which are based on various performance metrices, pertaining to teaching, research, citations, international outlook and industrial income, shows progress for several of China’s low-ranked universities, largely driven by improvements in its citations.

In fact, the Tsinghua University has overtaken the National University of Singapore (NUS) to become the best university in Asia due to improvements in its citations, institutional income and increased share of international staff, students and co-authored publications.

While India has progressed in terms of massification of education, there is still a lot which needs to be done when it comes to catching up with the China’s educational outcomes. China’s early start in strengthening its primary and secondary education systems has given it an edge over India in terms of higher education. Moreover, Chinese government strategies are designed in line with the criterion used in major world university rankings, especially emphasis is on the two factors which weigh heavily in the rankings — publications and international students.

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The relentless publications drive, which is very evident in China, is weak in India and has led to a growing gap in the number of publications contributed by the two countries. Further, China enrolled about 292,611 foreign students in 2011 from 194 countries, while India currently only has 46,144 foreign students enrolled in its higher education institutions, coming from 166 countries. The large number of international enrollments in China is a reflection of its state policies granting high scholarships to foreign students.

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes. Massification drive for education has helped India raise its student enrollments, but a lot needs to be done when it comes to global recognition for its universities. Further, it needs to focus on building the foundation skills which are acquired by students at the school age, poor fundamental skills flow through the student life, affecting adversely the quality of education system. (IANS)