1.Mild hybrids (Down to Earth)

2.The crisis of learning in the developing world (Live Mint)

1.Mild hybrids (Down to Earth)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the difference between different categories of hybrid vehicles. (GS paper III)

Overview

  • Recently, the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises notified a crucial amendment to the FAME(Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicle) programme. Under the new amendment, “mild hybrid” cars would no longer be eligible to get incentives under the FAME programme aimed at promoting electric mobility in the country.
  • The CSE had earlier raised an alarm on this practice of pushing diesel-driven mild hybrid cars as electric vehicles.

What are ‘Mild Hybrid’ cars and why do they pose such a problem?

  • Mild Hybrids are those vehicles that have minimal application of electric energy and use regenerative braking power only to assist the motor to start from the stationary position.
  • These vehicles cannot run on electric power alone, since they have no electric drivetrain. In other words, their character as hybrids is severely limited. Real world examples include Maruti Suzuki Ciaz and Mahindra Scorpio Micro Hybrid.

Strong hybrid vehicle?

  • Such a vehicle may have a provision for off-vehicle charging and has a rechargeable energy storage system, including an electric drivetrain. There exist two kinds of strong hybrids, as per the sources of energy they use.
Mild Hybrid Strong Hybrid
A mild hybrid, unlike a strong hybrid, cannot operate without petrol or diesel (internal combustion-IC) engine, since it has no separate electric motor to power the vehicle. A strong hybrid uses the IC engine to recharge the battery and has a separate electric motor capable of powering the vehicle even when the IC engine is off.
  • The first category of strong hybrid vehicle is the one with a petrol- or diesel-driven engine that charges the rechargeable energy storage system when in operation. This energy storage system has an electric drivetrain, which is capable of running the vehicle by itself. Examples of this kind of hybrid vehicle in India are Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
  • The second is a plug-in hybrid which allows you to charge your rechargeable energy storage system with an off-vehicle source a wall-mounted electrical plug point. A plug-in hybrid also has petrol- or diesel-driven engine, but off-vehicle recharge capability extends range of the vehicle when operating solely on the electric drivetrain. Examples of this kind of hybrid in India are Toyota Prius and Volvo XC90
  • The inclusion of ‘mild hybrids’ in the FAME programme, which are much cheaper to manufacture and have very little savings in terms of fuel efficiency only 7-15 per cent more than comparable conventional diesel models was only fanning dieselisation at the cost of public health. Apart from this, proliferation of mild hybrids did not allow the much bigger improvement in fuel efficiency that would have been possible as much as 32 per cent, from the transition to strong hybrid cars and 68 per cent for fully electric models.

Way ahead

  • The benefits accrued by these diesel vehicles in the name of ‘mild hybrids’ must be analysed against the backdrop of the measly 7-15 per cent savings in terms of fuel efficiency. Worryingly, SUV makers have also announced their intention to avail of the excise and FAME benefits to introduce cheaper vehicle variants in the markets.
  • These mild hybrids are cornering a huge portion of the funds allocated for promotion of electric mobility in India, and although the amendment in the FAME programme removes them from the incentive programme, they continue to receive huge benefits under the excise exemption.
  • The government must make its stand on mild hybrids clear, by clearly defining “Hybrids” and “Electric Vehicles” under the Motor Vehicles Act. Only when this is done, will there be clarity on which variants of “hybrids” will benefit from the government’s policies to promote electric mobility.

Question– What is the difference between hybrid vehicles and conventional vehicles? Should government incentivise them?

 

2.The crisis of learning in the developing world (Live Mint)

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue as how failure of children to achieve minimum proficiency levels despite attending school is an economic and ethical crisis. (GS paper II)

Overview

  • In rural India, the latest edition of the ASER shows that only 47.8% of class V students can read a class II-level text and only 43% of class VIII students can do class V-level arithmetic.

Learning outcomes

  • For some time now, we have known that an unacceptably large number of Indian children are attending school but not learning enough. Now, research shows that this is not just an Indian problem but a global epidemic that threatens several low- and middle-income countries across the globe.
  • New estimates from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) indicate that about 617 million children or six out of every 10 children are not achieving minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics.
  • The numbers are the worst for sub-Saharan Africa where, according to UIS data, about 88% of children are not able to read properly or do simple math by the time they finish middle school. South and central Asia comes a close second, with 81% of children in the region not learning the basic minimum.
  • In its annual “World Development Report”, released recently, the World Bank describes this as not just a “learning crisis” but a “moral crisis” amplifying inequalities between and within nations.
  • Notably, this learning crisis comes at a time when enrolment levels have increased across the board. India has achieved near-universal enrolment and, globally, the gap between children attending school in developed and developing countries is closing.
  • So, access to education has improved but the quality of education hasn’t. It is tempting to blame this on lack of resources but let’s not forget the success story of post-war South Korea, or of Vietnam and Peru, Malaysia and Tanzania which have only recently improved learning outcomes.

why do some systems succeed while others fail?

  • Essentially, because the latter aren’t able to effectively integrate their key elements. The World Bank lists four such elements students, teachers, school administration and school infrastructure. If any one malfunctions, the entire system is threatened. Fixing the ecosystem means tackling each element individually and collectively.
  • Essentially, because the latter aren’t able to effectively integrate their key elements. The World Bank lists four such elements—students, teachers, school administration and school infrastructure. If any one malfunctions, the entire system is threatened. Fixing the ecosystem means tackling each element individually and collectively.
  • If children come to school sick or hungry, or if parents aren’t able to care for them, not just after birth but also in the womb, then their learning levels will be adversely affected. Here, early interventions targeting pregnant women, new mothers and their infants can be particularly effective. India’s integrated child development services scheme and the mid-day meal scheme are good examples.
  • Moving on to teachers, the importance of teachers’ skills and capabilities should require no elaboration. Yet, they receive little attention. Most developing countries struggle to attract the best and the brightest to their schools even when pay is competitive. Teachers, once hired, are given almost no training or professional development support, leaving them ill-equipped in the classroom.
  • Education systems also rarely offer incentives to improve pedagogical skills, and instead add non-teaching responsibilities. In Ethiopia and Guatemala, only one-third of the total instructional time was used for teaching. In India, teachers from government schools double up as census workers and election officers.
  • School principals and school managements also suffer from similar problems. A 2015 study by Stanford University’s Nicholas Bloom and others on management practices across 1,800 high schools in eight countries, including India, showed that better management produced better educational outcomes, and schools with greater autonomy did especially well (explaining at least in part the success of the UK academies and the US charter schools). Yet, in the developing world, school managements are rarely empowered or incentivized to improve learning outcomes.
  • In terms of school infrastructure, the relationship between learning levels and learning aids and tools such as laptops and laboratories is often overemphasized. Several studies have shown that similar investments can produce vastly different outcomes, depending on how the investment is utilized. For example, one assessment of Brazil’s One Laptop Per Child scheme showed that more than 40% of teachers rarely used the devices in classrooms.

Way ahead

  • A disproportionate focus on such inputs, and, by extension, inadequate attention towards outcomes, is one of the most important reasons why India’s right to education legislation has performed below potential. For there to be a shift in policy and practice, one has to start with assessing outcomes. This is the World Bank’s top recommendation for making education systems more effective. The ASER survey has set the ball rolling in India but there’s a long way to go. India still rarely participates in any of the international assessments and when it does, it finds itself at the bottom of the pile.
  • Assessing, measuring and benchmarking performance is the first step. Ultimately, breaking out of the low learning trap will require concerted action and evidence-based policymaking.

Question– How do you think the Indian education system can improve its learning outcomes? What it can learn from global examples?