Monday January 21, 2019
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New India awaits Geeta

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By Sapan Kapoor

The Indian deaf-mute girl Geeta, stuck in Pakistan for 13 long years, finally returned to India on Monday accompanied by members of the social welfare organization Edhi Foundation, who had been generously looking after her since 2003, so that she could be reunited with her loved ones.

Geeta – whose heart-rending story bears an uncanny resemblance to that of a character named ‘Munni’ in the Bollywood blockbuster Bajrangi Bhaijaan – was unable to return home, for she could not remember or explain where she was actually from.

The Indian government said that members of Edhi Foundation would be treated as guests and were welcome to stay in the country as long as Geeta’s family was identified. In fact, as soon as the plane carrying her landed at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport, she was at once mobbed by an army of reporters and rubberneckers with news channels covering her every movement live.

As I write this piece, a meeting between Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Geeta is underway. She is expected to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi later today besides being hosted by Pakistani High Commission in the national capital. Needless to say, the girl must be overwhelmed with all the attention she is receiving from one and all.

While leaving for India from Karachi, in a bid to express her gratitude to the people of Pakistan, Geeta used the sign language to say she felt blessed to be in that country, as translated by her instructor Ishrat Shaheen.

“She will never forget how much love and respect Pakistan has given her.”

That’s the challenge. After the Indian foreign ministry under the leadership of Sushma Swaraj pulled out all the stops to facilitate her homecoming, we must now ensure that she is meted out with a far better treatment than she got in the Islamic Republic.

Geeta’s anxiety to return to her country as soon as possible was understandable considering the prevailing atmosphere of intolerance and violence in Pakistan, even though the Edhis treated her just like their sister and daughter.

However, in India once all the hype around her around is over and media shifts its attention to some other pressing issue, Geeta would find ample time to observe the current state of affairs in the country.

She would discover an India that is somewhat different from what she must have expected it to be. An India where a 50-year-old man is lynched for merely eating beef, where two Dalit children are burnt alive by members of an upper caste community, where rationalists are killed for their ideas, where people are murdered over beef rumours, where people are attacked with black paint for helping in the launch of a book and where freedom of speech and expression is apparently under threat.

Geeta would soon learn that her country is walking on the same path trodden by Pakistan where she spent years under the guardianship of Edhi family. She would realize that if Shahzad Masih (26) and his five-month-pregnant wife Shama Bibi (24), a Christian couple, are burnt alive following an announcement from a Mosque loud-speaker accusing them of committing blasphemy in Pakistan’s Kot Radha Kishan, Mohammed Akhlaq is beaten to death after an announcement from a temple loudspeaker accusing him of slaughtering a cow in India’s Dadri.

Besides, there are thousands of Geetas and Mehrunissas in both the countries longing to be reunited with their loved ones, reaping what their ancestors sow in 1947 when people who had been living together for centuries were divided along the lines of religion, blighting their future. Every year hundreds of fishermen are arrested by both the countries for no fault of their own.

Therefore, in the wake of Geeta’s return, I hope the governments on both sides will show similar zeal to such humanitarian issues, instead of using wretched people as a bargaining tool. Being humans, this is the least we can do.

In Mahatma Gandhi’s words,

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

 

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India Needs to Improve its Educational Outcomes to Catch up with China

To catch up with China, India needs to lay emphasis on improving its educational outcomes

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The Article 30 of the Constitution gives religious and linguistic minorities “the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.”
India needs to improve its educational outcomes to catch up with China. 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.

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.

abroad, study
Representational image.

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.

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.

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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.

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)