COVID-19 widened educational divide: UNESCO report

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in education systems across the world. According to a UNESCO report, about 40% of low- and lower-middle-income countries have not supported learners at risk of exclusion during this crisis, such as the poor, linguistic minorities and learners with disabilities.

Key details of the report:

  • About 40% of low- and lower-middle-income countries have not supported learners at risk of exclusion during this crisis, such as the poor, linguistic minorities and learners with disabilities.
  • The report noted that efforts to maintain learning continuity during the pandemic may have actually worsened exclusion trends.
  • During the height of school closures in April 2020, almost 91% of students around the world were out of school.
  • While India has also used distance learning solutions for educational continuity, the digital divide lays bare the limitations of this approach.
  • School closures have also interrupted support mechanisms from which many disadvantaged learners’ benefit.
  • For poor students who depend on school for free meals or even free sanitary napkins, closures have been major blows.
  • The report highlighted that, cancellation of examinations in many countries, including India, may result in scoring dependent on teachers’ judgements of students instead, which could be affected by stereotypes of certain types of students.
  • Higher drop-out rates are also a concern.
  • During an earlier Ebola epidemic in Africa, many older girls never returned to school once the crisis was over.

Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report:

  • Developed by an independent team and published by UNESCO, the Education for All Global Monitoring Report published from 2002–2015, aimed to sustain commitment towards Education for All.
  • It published 12 Reports from 2002 until 2015.
  • It was then renamed, and re-launched under a new mandate as the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, UNESCO, whose principal role is to monitor progress towards the education targets in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
  • In line with its mandate, the 2020 GEM Report assesses progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) on education and its ten targets, as well as other related education targets in the SDG agenda.
  • The Report also addresses inclusion in education, drawing attention to all those excluded from education, because of background or ability.
  • The Report is motivated by the call to ensure an inclusive and equitable quality education in the formulation of SDG 4, the global goal for education.
  • The Report also explores the challenges holding the world back from achieving this vision and demonstrates concrete policy examples from countries managing to tackle them with success.
  • These include differing understandings of the word inclusion, lack of teacher support, absence of data on those excluded from education, inappropriate infrastructure, persistence of parallel systems and special schools, lack of political will and community support, untargeted finance, uncoordinated governance, multiple but inconsistent laws, and policies that are not being followed through.

Conclusion:

In order to combat the situation, 17% of low and middle-income countries are planning to recruit more teachers, 22% to increase class time and 68% to introduce remedial classes when schools reopen. However, how such classes are planned and targeted will be critical to whether disadvantaged students can catch up.


OBC sub-categorization commission gets six-month extension

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in news:

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved a six-month extension to the commission appointed to examine sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes. Headed by retired Delhi High Court Chief Justice G. Rohini, the commission will now have till January 31, 2021 to submit its report, the government said in a statement. The commission had been appointed in October 2017 with the initial deadline of 12 weeks. It has received several extensions since then.

Key Details:

  • The commission had been appointed in October 2017 with the initial deadline of 12 weeks.
  • The commission headed by retired Delhi High Court Chief Justice G. Rohini will have to submit its report by January 31, 2021.
  • The commission was constituted under Article 340of the constitution to examine the issue of Sub-categorization within other Backward Classes in the Central List.
  • Article 340 of the Indian Constitution lays down conditions for the appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of the backward classes.
  • The President may by order appoint a Commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India.
  • The commission is looking into the issues of communities that were not getting the benefits of reservation.
  • Sub categorization of the OBCs will ensure that the more backward among the OBC communities can also access the benefits of reservation for educational institutions and government jobs.

What is the Sub category for OBC?

  • Other Backward Class (OBC) is a common classification of castes used by the Government of India which are socially or educationally disadvantaged. As per Mandal Commission report of 1980, OBC’s constituted 52% of the country’s population.
  • As per National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) 2006 report, the OBC’s comprised 41% of the population. An accurate number would be available after the 2021 census. To make sure that Government benefits reach the deserving category, there are plans on having sub categories within OBC.
  • The reason is currently 97% of government reservation benefits are availed by few of them namely, Yadav, Kurmi, Jats, Saini, Thevar, Ezhava and Vokkaliga castes.

Measure taken by the President of India to Examine Issues Related to Sub Categorization of OBC:

In 2017 President of India constituted a 5-member commission to explore the concept of sub categorization of OBC. The commission is headed by Former Chief Justice of Delhi, G. Rohini. This commission was appointed by the President by exercising the provisions given in Article 340 of the Indian Constitution. The objective of the commission is given below.

  1. To understand the extent of unfair and unjust distribution of benefits of reservation among different castes and communities in the Central OBC list.
  2. The actual OBC reservation will continue to be 27%, but mechanisms, criteria and parameters will have to laid out for actual sub categorization of OBC
  3. Bring order to Central list on OBC.

This commission has received a total of 6 extensions since its appointment, the last extension was given in 2019.


Pakistan to remain on ‘greylist’ of terror financing watchdog FATF

Paper: II

Mains: General Studies- II: Governance, Constitution, Polity, Social Justice and International relations.

Why in News:

Pakistan received another extension on the “greylist”, as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary session on Wednesday decided to continue all countries under scrutiny for Terror Financing and Money Laundering until October 2020. However, Islamabad faced setbacks on other fronts, with the United States slamming its record on terrorism, including its failure to act against groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and received a U.S. veto against its joint effort with China to list an Indian engineer on the UN Security Council (UNSC)’s 1267 list.

Details:

  • At the FATF plenary, Pakistan was due for a decision on whether it would be kept on the “greylist” or downgraded to the blacklist for failing to meet the 27-point action plan on countering terror financing and anti-money laundering (CFT/AML) measures.
  • FATF had given Pakistan two extensions to comply with its action plan since October 2019.
  • It has received another extension on the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) “greylist”.
  • Islamabad faced setbacks on other fronts, with the United States slamming its record on terrorism, including its failure to act against groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and received a U.S. veto against its joint effort with China to list an Indian engineer on the UN Security Council (UNSC)’s 1267 list.

2019 country report for terrorism (The U.S.A):

  • The U.S. released its 2019 country report for terrorism, where the State Department said Pakistan had continued to serve as a safe haven for regional terrorist groups.
  • Pakistan allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated HQN, as well as groups targeting India, including LeT and its affiliated front organizations, and JeM, to operate from its territory said the report.
  • It added that while Pakistan had taken modest steps in 2019 to tackle terror financing and restrain some India-focused terrorist organizations after the Pulwama attack in 2019, it still had not taken decisive action that would undermine the operational capability of India and Afghanistan focused terrorists.
  • The report also took note of LeT chief Hafiz Saeed’s arrest last year but pointed out that JeM founder Masood Azhar and Sajid Mir were at large. Azhar was designated a global terrorist by the U.N. in 2019.
  • However, the report said Pakistan had played a “constructive role” in facilitating U.S. talks with the Taliban.

RBI will supervise cooperative banks

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

An ordinance bringing all urban and multi-State cooperative banks under the supervision of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been approved by the Union Cabinet.

Key Details:

  • Urban cooperatives and multi-State cooperative banks, which are 1,540 in number and have a depositor base of 8.6 crore have been brought under RBI supervision process, which is applicable to scheduled banks.
  • Currently, these banks come under dual regulation of the RBI and the Registrar of Co-operative Societies.

Significance:

  • The move to bring these urban and multi-State coop. banks under the supervision of the RBI comes after several instances of fraud and serious financial irregularities, including the major scam at the Punjab and Maharashtra Co-operative (PMC) Bank.
  • The RBI was forced to supercede the PMC Bank’s board and impose strict restrictions.
  • The ordinance has been passed with a view to protect the depositors. With this, depositors will get more security.

RBI slams banks, NBFCs as digital loan agents flout code

Paper: III

Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management

Why in news:

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has come down heavily on banks and non-banks as it found violation of fair practices code by digital platforms that act as an agency of these lenders to sell loans. The banking regulator has now prescribed norms such as loan sanction letter to be issued to the borrower on the letter head of the lender concerned.

Key Details:

  • The RBI said it found the platforms tend to portray themselves as lenders without disclosing the name of the bank/ NBFC at the back end as a result of which customers were not able to access grievance redressal avenues available under the regulatory framework.
  • “Of late, there are several complaints against the lending platforms which primarily relate to exorbitant interest rates, non-transparent methods to calculate interest, harsh recovery measures, unauthorized use of personal data and bad behavior,” RBI said.
  • The RBI said it was concerned due to non-transparency of transactions and violation of guidelines on outsourcing of financial services and Fair Practices Code.

Measures taken:

  • RBI has prescribed norms such as loan sanction letter to be issued to the borrower on the letter head of the lender concerned.
  • Immediately after sanction but before execution of the loan agreement, the sanction letter must be issued to the borrower on the letter head of the bank/ NBFC concerned.
  • The lenders are told to disclose the names of all digital lending platforms, engaged as agents, on the websites of banks/ NBFCs.
  • The RBI has instructed that a copy of the loan agreement along with a copy each of all enclosures quoted in the loan agreement be furnished to all borrowers at the time of sanction/ disbursement of loans.