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1.Education reform (The Financial Express)

2.How much of India is actually urban? (Live Mint)


1.Education reform (The Financial Express) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue need to have Education reform to shift from a know-it-all mindset to a learn-it-all mindset. (GS paper III)


  • The problems that confront higher education in India today are low rates of enrolment, unequal access, and poor quality of infrastructure and lack of relevance. India’s higher education regulation needs a radical rethink for three reasons- supply now exceeds demand, there’s a new world of work, and there are diverse education motivations.
  • It is time to give up tinkering at margins, and for the MHRD to replicate the ambition, scale and courage for reform that ended the licence raj in 1991. With new moves being planned on the policy front, it is necessary to find concrete solutions and build on earlier efforts.
  • Globally, education is shifting from a know-it-all mindset to a learn-it-all mindset, but massive innovation in India is not happening because regulatory cholesterol does not allow universities and entrepreneurs to make millions of statistically independent, genetically diverse tries.

3 reasons-

  1. Supply exceeds demand-
  • More than 30% of engineering and MBA seats are empty. Even though government colleges and universities (about 45% of the total graduate and under-graduate total) are massively subsidised, many seats beyond the top 25 institutions are empty even though essentially free.
  • The problem has shifted from quantity to quality. As educationist John Gardner said- “from being equal to excellent”. Essentially almost any child in India who wants a degree can get one, students are getting better at making choices, and unemployability is bigger problem than unemployment.
  1. New world of work
  • In the upcoming decades there will be change in the world of work, which would include the end of the lifetime employment contract (replaced by a more flexible taxicab relationship), accelerated automation (capital substitution of labour), and accelerated human obsolescence (knowledge and skills become out of date faster).
  • It has been seen a divergence of interests between younger and older workers. The notion of job giving you security for life in one big institution with regular increments and an index-linked defined benefit pension is quaint if not almost extinct.
  1. Diverse education motivation
  • Usually it has been seen that most of the learners are youth, they spend 20 years learning and 40 years earning, and this notion makes life very difficult for adult learners. It often looks down upon institutions focused on learning-for-earning (employability) over learning-for-living (knowledge for a good life and citizenship).
  • But most learners in the next 20 years will not always be young, not always be able to pursue learning full-time, not always be able to commute to a physical classroom, and not always be able to complete their course at one go, and will often be pursuing education with the sole objective of getting a job.

Separate mechanism

  • The role of regulator, service provider and policy maker must be separated otherwise India’s higher education system will not be self-healing or scalable. India’s education system will not deliver employability unless there is full freedom to universities to craft their courses (duration, terminology, recognition of prior learning) and full freedom to launch online courses, rather there should be no approval and all universities irrespective of age and ownership should be free to launch.
  • India’s higher education system will never deliver results till we fix school education which means amending the Right to Education Act with the Right to Learning Act, there is need to shift focus from hardware, decentralise powers, reduce BEO corruption, etc.
  • Though it is not clear that UGC’s overly restrictive bureaucracy and regulations have been able to halt the decline of the university systems research or employment outcomes. But the AICTE (the regulator of engineering education) has done better than MCI (the regulator of medical education) because it created brutal competition, there was about 30% empty engineering seats and it substantially lowered costs of becoming an engineer.
  • As Industrial revolution led to mass schooling, the service revolution led to mass college-enrolment, but nobody knows where the automation revolution leads us to. But we do know that strong foundation of K-12 education (the 4Rs of Reading, writing, arithmetic and Relationships) and a convergence between the skill and higher education system by making it more multi-modal, modular and flexible could improve the odds.

Way ahead

  • There is need for higher education to move to policy making being in government hands, service provision by private sector and a separate government body, and regulation of both government and private entities by a non-profit, independent regulator.
  • Though these are big leaps, but India’s demographic dividend and skill challenge means we need bold solutions. And the most important argument for heavy handed regulation consumer protection is no longer as potent as it used to be because students and parents are more aware.

QuestionWhat type of systemic education reforms are required to make the Indian youth more acceptable in the wake of digital revolution?


2.How much of India is actually urban? (Live Mint) 

Synoptic line: It throws light on the issue of the answer to the question- How much of India is actually urban? (GS paper III)


  • The assessment of urban population in India is depends up on the criteria we use to define urban settlements. Under the rather stringent definition of the Census, about a third of India is urban, with urbanized states concentrated in relatively richer southern and western India.
  • Under the census definition, 31% of the Indian population lived in urban areas in 2011. But the share of urban population which lives in towns and cities, actually classified as urban, and governed by urban local bodies is even lower at 26%.

The definition

  • In 1961 by then census commissioner, India’s three-tiered census definition of ‘urban’ at least 5,000 inhabitants, density of 400 people per sq. km or more, and at least 75% of male working population engaged in non-farm activities.
  • However, it has been more than five decades later, questions are being raised on whether that definition underestimates the urban population although there is no agreement among urban experts on what the new definition should be.
  • One way to check whether a definition of urban is appropriate is to evaluate the correlation between the share of urban population and per-capita incomes. The built-up area criterion (as measured by satellite images) fails that check. But both the existing definition and the more relaxed (5,000+ inhabitants) criteria seem to meet that test.
  • There is an element of discretion involved in any definition that attempts to strictly delineate rural from urban areas. Experts may disagree on the precise definition of ‘urban’, but they all agree that it makes sense to view the entire spectrum of settlements from small villages to large urban agglomerations as a continuum rather than in terms of the rural/urban binary.
  • Much of India’s population currently resides in the middle space, away from the big cities as well as the hamlets. Many large settlements that are deemed by the Census and state governments as rural may require urban services such as spatial planning, fire services, and building regulations. But the rigid rural-urban division means that they are denied such services.
  • As India’s rural-urban migration has been driven mostly by male migrants, who go back to their villages instead of settling in cities with their families, hence the pace of urbanization was not affected.
  • According to the India’s former chief statistician Pronab Sen- “In a country where political success is driven by managing the 3Cs of Indian society caste, community and class, no incumbent political leader would like to see any uncontrolled change in the social configuration of the constituency and, therefore, of the winning coalition.
  • Migration causes this both in the originating villages and destination towns. Initially these effects may be relatively small, but they can snowball over time since much of the migration is driven by social networks. It is because of these reasons that much of urban growth in India is because of purely ‘organic’ reasons: natural growth and reclassification of towns and villages. Migration accounts for barely a fifth of the urban population growth in India.

Question–  What do you mean by Urban India? How it can be tackled in a sustainable way