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India seeks strong UN action against groups attacking peacekeepers

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United Nations: India has demanded that the UN take strong action against groups attacking peacekeepers who are being mandated to deal with emerging new threats and take on expanded roles.

“We would like to urge the United Nations, and specially the Security Council, to ensure a mandatory inclusion in all UNPKO (UN Peacekeeping Operations) mandates of legally binding provisions for prosecuting, penalizing and neutralizing any non-governmental armed groups and armed militias causing, or threatening to cause, harm to UNPKOs,” India’s delegate Rahul Kaswan told the General Assembly Committee dealing with political matters Wednesday.

“We have been stressing at various peacekeeping debates at the UN about the new demands that have been placed on the PKOs with the changing nature of conflicts,” Kaswan said as he outlined the threats faced by peacekeepers confronting terrorists and militias in new environments.

With 7,793 Indian personnel currently serving under the UN’s blue flag in dangerous environments far different from the international and civil conflicts the PKOs were designed for, India has been concerned for their safety.

In May, an Indian Colonel serving in South Sudan was injured when a compound with refugees protected by Indian peacekeepers was caught in a crossfire. Five Indian peacekeepers were killed in 2013 in two separate attacks by rebels on refugee camps they were protecting in that country.

In 2010, three Indian peacekeepers were killed in attacks by rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in 2012 three were hacked to death.

Kaswan, a Bharatiya Janata Party member of the Lok Sabha representing Churu in Rajasthan, is among parliamentarians representing India at the UN.

He raised another issue of concern to India where the UN Security Council mixes traditional PKOs with a new type of active intervention by other troops.

He referred to the added risks from the Security Council mandating so-called UN Force Intervention Brigades to carry out offensive operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, alongside the peacekeepers, of whom 4,000 are Indians.

Even as the Security Council added to the role of the PKOs, the resources and finances didn’t match the responsibilities, he said.

“There is an urgent need to offset the mismatch between the requirement of the resources and the actual allocated resources,” he added.

Kaswan said that emphasis should be placed on finding political solutions to conflicts give the resource constraints.

He brought up the payment for peacekeepers and said that the General Assembly had fixed a new rate since last year of $1,322 per person per month even though the Troop Cost Survey had recommended $1,762.55.

Kaswan crticised “the opaque manner in which the Security Council continues to mandate peace operations, without any accountability or transparency”, and reiterated India’s demand that it hold proper consultations with troops contributing countries as required under the UN Charter.

India is historically the largest troop contributor to UN operations, having sent 185,000 troops to serve in 48 of the 69 missions mandated so far, he said.

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s offer to increase troop contribution by ten percent and send three police units with a high proportion of women, Kaswan said it was a sign that “India is willing to walk the talk when it comes to supporting UN peace operations.”

(By 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)