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India’s lost pride on its way to revival – Nalanda

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By Harshmeet Singh

India’s present education system leaves a lot to be desired. With hardly any Indian representation in the top Universities around the world, the disappointment about our education system seems to be justified. Even worse is the situation at the primary level with 43% kids dropping out of school before completing upper primary education. Such despicable condition of education is all the more disheartening when considering the fact that India gave the world some of the earliest centers of learning and attracted students from all over the world long before modern civilization set in.

One such center of learning that has caught recent attention due to Government’s plans of reinstating it is the Nalanda University. The famed Nalanda University first came into being in 427 AD when Kumaragupta of the Gupta Dynasty established it as a center for learning of Mahayana Buddhism. Though it was set up as a Buddhist University, many secular subjects also formed a part of the curriculum. It was during the rule of emperor Harsha of Kannauj that the University reached its peak and achieved the status of a great learning center. Students from China, Korea, Indonesia, Central Asian countries and Tibet thronged the University with great expectations. Some of the excavations suggest that the University was four stories high. The campus also housed a nine stories high library with thousands of books and manuscripts. According to Hiuen Tsang, the famous Chinese Buddhist monk scholar and traveler, Nalanda was home to over 10,000 students. The University was supported by the revenue generated from 200 villages.

It is said that Harsha invited 1,000 learned monks of Nalanda to Kannauj to hold a philosophical assembly. Nalanda’s Acharya Kamalasheel was invited by the King of Tibet to visit his country. He died while he was preaching in Tibet, following which, his body was placed at a monastery in Lhasa. Though it was established as a center for Buddhist studies, Nalanda attracted world class professors undertaking research work in astronomy and mathematics.

By the time Universities like Oxford started to come up in the west, Nalanda was fighting for its survival due to the attacks from Turkish invaders. It was eventually brought down to the ground by the army of Bakhtiyar Khilji, Qutb-ud-din Aybak’s military general. His destruction of Nalanda and the following conquest of Bengal laid the foundation for the commencement of Muslim rule in India.

When the idea for the revival of Nalanda first came up in 2007, it garnered much support from countries like China, Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Singapore, each of which thought that they should “bring together the brightest and the most dedicated students from all countries of Asia — irrespective of gender, caste, creed, disability, ethnicity or social-economic background — to enable them to acquire liberal and human education.” The first batch of students was admitted through a rigorous admission process and had their first session on 1st September 2014. Whether Nalanda manages to regain its lost stature remains to be seen, but the authorities must be lauded for their efforts to bring back something that was the first mark of India’s knowledge prowess.

 

The author is a freelance writer. This piece was written exclusively for NewsGram.

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Reducing Gender Inequalities in Education Sector Would Better Outcomes in Future

As for improvements on other fronts, the water and sanitation sector, for instance, faces a significant shortage of qualified professionals. While the importance of involving both men and women in management of water and sanitation facilities has for long been recognised globally, mostly men are still seen as the primary decision makers.

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Another sector where the share of professionals possessing AI skills is high is education, accounting for about 19 per cent of the total workforce - of which women account for just one-third of the male talent pool. However, education is also one of the few sectors where the number of women working are greater than the men. Pixabay

The benefits of diversity in the workforce are known to give companies a competitive edge and this, in turn, enables higher growth. A 2018 McKinsey & Company Report, “Delivering through Diversity”, found out that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21 per cent more likely to experience financial returns above their national industry means than the companies in the fourth quartile.

While the research findings point towards positive correlation between financial performance and greater inclusion of women in leadership roles, it is essential to address the issue of gender disparity in education as this sector helps in developing professional capacities in both men and women.

As the world moves closer to covering the gender gap in education, with only 5 per cent of the gap remaining, one of the issues which mask under gender parity in education is the lower participation of both men and women which is preventing the world from fully utilising the human capital.

The Global Gender Gap Report, 2018 (WEF, 2018) points out that globally, there were on average 65 per cent girls and 66 per cent boys who were enrolled in secondary education and only about 39 per cent girls and 34 per cent boys who were participating in tertiary education. Thus, the gender gaps cannot be completely closed until the participation increases in education at all levels.

Further, to the issue of the lower overall participation, particularly in the tertiary sector, is the fact that although there are more females graduating than males globally, when it comes to the skills for the lucrative jobs, women tend to lag behind men.

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While the research findings point towards positive correlation between financial performance and greater inclusion of women in leadership roles, it is essential to address the issue of gender disparity in education as this sector helps in developing professional capacities in both men and women. Pixabay

According to the Global Education Monitoring Report Gender Review (UNESCO, 2018), in countries such as Chile, Ghana and Switzerland, women account for less than one-quarter of all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) degrees. Among the South Asian countries, India has about 42 per cent tertiary graduate females pursuing a STEM programme, which is much higher than many developed countries. The only few countries where the majority of STEM graduates are females are Algeria, Tunisia and Albania.

In the era of the 4th Industrial Revolution, when the in-demand skills in the job market include Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, these gender gaps in STEM studies, if left unchecked, will broaden gender disparities across the industries. Currently, there is a significant gender gap among the AI professionals, with only about 22 per cent of them being female and 78 per cent being male. Regional analysis across the globe reveals that the top three countries where AI talent is the most prominent are United States, India and Germany – along with a significant gender gap in AI skills biased against women (WEF, 2018).

Industry-level workforce data for the gender gap indicates that the top three sectors where the proportion of men is much greater than women are manufacturing, energy and mining sector and software and IT services. Out of these, the third sector employs about 40 per cent of the AI professionals in total workforce, with women accounting for just 7.4 per cent of the AI talent pool. The other two sectors have a very low percentage of AI-skilled workforce.

Another sector where the share of professionals possessing AI skills is high is education, accounting for about 19 per cent of the total workforce – of which women account for just one-third of the male talent pool. However, education is also one of the few sectors where the number of women working are greater than the men.

If the current trend of male domination in STEM disciplines at the college level or in acquiring emerging skills at the workplace continues unabated, it can lead to wider gender disparities across industries due to the rising demand for the AI skills, irrespective of being a traditionally male or a traditionally female oriented sector.

Efforts towards achieving gender parity in education beyond enrolments, to take account of equality in choosing skills which are a gateway to employment opportunities, will help in creating a gender-equal workforce in the future and greater financial gains.

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Wider gender disparities across industries due to the rising demand for the AI skills, irrespective of being a traditionally male or a traditionally female oriented sector. Pixabay

Addressing the gender disparity issue in education not just results in financial improvements for businesses, and greater growth, but also helps in achieving better development outcomes.

For instance, in the health sector, there is a global shortage of 17.4 million healthcare workers, including 2.6 million doctors, 9 million nurses and midwives (WHO, 2016). While women form the majority of the sector’s workforce, they are primarily clustered in the lower-level positions, with senior positions being held by men.

Efforts to attract more males to nursing courses and elevating the status of care related work can help to break the feminisation of the nursing profession and address the shortage of workforce to some extent. For women to move up to senior positions amidst the rapidly digitising technology, efforts towards reskilling them can close the gender gaps in senior positions.

Also Read: To Provide Internet Connectivity in Areas With Inadequate Infrastructure, Facebook Project Uses Drones

As for improvements on other fronts, the water and sanitation sector, for instance, faces a significant shortage of qualified professionals. While the importance of involving both men and women in management of water and sanitation facilities has for long been recognised globally, mostly men are still seen as the primary decision makers.

Thus, alleviating gender inequalities in education can bring out more qualified female professionals in the decision-making roles. (IANS)