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Indian Express

20- December-2023

1. NEW LESSONS, NEW QUESTIONS

Topic: GS2 – Education This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of socio-economic issues, government policies, and the impact of various factors on the overall development of the country.
Context:
  • The Right to Free and Compulsory Education (2009) in India guarantees elementary schooling for all children aged 6-14.
  • The government’s efforts to enhance access to secondary education through the Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan in 2009 faced challenges in the transition rates to secondary schools.
  • The closure of schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic raised concerns about learning loss and potential dropouts.
Impact of School Closures and Enrolment Data: A. Duration of School Closures
  • Due to Covid-19, elementary schools in India were closed for about two years, making it one of the countries with the longest periods of school closures.
B. Enrolment Data during Covid Years
    • Enrollment data from the Covid years, namely ASER 2020–21, defied expectations by indicating a slight increase in the number of students not in school, mostly in the 6–10 age range.
    • In 2022, 1.6% of children aged 6 to 14 were not enrolled in school, which was the lowest percentage ever.
Positive Trends in Education:
  1. Secular Decline in Out-of-School Proportions:
    • The percentage of 15 to 16-year-olds who were not in school decreased from 16.1% in 2010 to 7.5% in 2022, suggesting that educational involvement is on the rise.
    • It is thought that more kids graduating from grade VIII and going on to secondary education will be good for India’s labour force.
Integration of Digital Technologies:
  1. Digital Divide and Digital Access:
    • The growing “digital dividend” and the necessity of closing the digital divide in order to have a bigger developmental impact are highlighted in the World Development Report.
    • The percentage of smartphones in rural India increased significantly throughout the Covid years, rising from 36% in 2018 to 74.8% in 2022.
B. Impact on Education and Livelihoods:
    • The pandemic-induced shift to virtual education brought to light how important digital devices particularly smartphones are for educational access.
    • During this time, digital knowledge and access became essential for working people and independent contractors.
Exploiting Demographic and Digital Dividends:
  1. Youth Education and Transition:
  • India is positioned to benefit from both the demographic and digital dividends, as more young people are finishing their elementary schooling and have greater access to digital gadgets.
  1. Role of ASER:
  • Recognising that their decisions may affect future chances for both individuals and the economy, the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) focuses on rural adolescents between the ages of 14 and 18.
Importance of Youth Study and Work Aspirations:
  1. Critical Questions:
  • Determining areas of support and designing effective policy requires an understanding of what young people are doing, their educational choices, their aspirations, and their capacity to apply basic skills.
  1. Role of EdTech and Digital Literacy:
  • With the growing emphasis on education technology, trustworthy data regarding young people’s digital competence is crucial for providing educational materials and specialised training.
Conclusion:
  • Ensuring active engagement in the economy and promoting youth aspirations are critical to the quality of India’s labour force.
  • India’s development is facilitated by the convergence of demographic and digital dividends, as well as favourable trends in educational involvement.
  • Using these trends as a springboard, policymakers should emphasise education, digital literacy, and the efficient use of technology in the classroom in order to foster a positive atmosphere for young people.
What is Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)?
  • The yearly ASER home survey is conducted by citizens with the goal of determining whether or not children in rural India are receiving an education.
  • Since 2005, ASER has been carried out annually in all of India’s rural districts. It’s India’s biggest citizen-led survey to date.
  • At the national, state, and district levels, ASER surveys yielded representative estimates of the enrollment status of children aged 3-16 as well as the basic reading and math proficiency of children aged 5-16.
PYQ: “India faces challenges in providing quality education to its children and youth”. Discuss the importance of new education policy in light of this statement. (UPSC CSE (M) GS-2 2020) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question: Analyzing the Impact of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act (2009) on the Education Landscape in India, assess the effectiveness of government initiatives in promoting elementary and secondary education. (250 words/15 m)

2. A climate paradox

Topic: GS3 – Environment 
This topic is not much relevant in the context of Prelims but more for Mains in the context of climate policies and the challenges in aligning with emission reduction targets.
Context:
  • At the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, India took the lead in highlighting the critical need for international action to combat global warming.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the unfairness of climate impacts worldwide and emphasised India’s unwavering stance on climate justice.
  • An agreement to move away from fossil fuels hinted at a potential turning point in the fossil fuel era, even though the final conference document did not specifically call for their phase-out.
India’s Contradictory Stance:
  • India’s participation in COP28 was noteworthy due to its failure to join important decarbonisation agreements, including as the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, which aims to triple the amount of renewable energy produced by 2030.
  • This position seems incongruous with India’s pledge to increase its use of renewable energy.
  • India did not sign any important pledges during the conference, despite making great progress in renewable energy including ranking fourth globally in capacity installations.
Renewable Energy Progress and Plans:
  • India’s dedication to renewable energy is demonstrated by its accomplishments, which include the International Solar Alliance’s success and its ranking as the fourth country in the world for installed renewable energy capacity in 2022.
  • With investments totaling $310 billion last year and likely to exceed $380 billion this year, solar energy in particular has drawn significant attention.
  • According to national plans, by 2032, solar and wind energy will account for 35% of the nation’s total electricity generation.
  • Fossil Fuel Dependency and Current Energy Scenario:
  • Even with these advancements in renewable energy, India’s energy system still depends mostly on fossil fuels, especially coal.
  • According to data, October 2023 saw a drop in the amount of energy generated by renewable sources compared to the same month the previous year.
  • The majority of electricity was produced by thermal power plants, primarily those that used coal.
  • According to Ember estimates, 77% of India’s energy output in 2022 came from fossil fuels, with coal dominating at 74%.
  • Emission Reduction Challenges and Targets
  • India has difficulties matching emission reduction goals with its energy development.
  • The International Energy Agency’s Net Zero Emissions scenario suggests decarbonising the energy sector entirely by 2040 and doing away with sub-critical coal installations by 2030.
  • However, India’s present promise is to attain net zero by 2070 and guarantee that by 2030, non-fossil fuel-based sources will account for 50% of the country’s energy capacity.
Complex Trajectory of India’s Energy Development:
  • India’s energy growth trajectory presents a difficult picture as it strikes a balance between continuing to rely on fossil fuels and acknowledging the need for renewable energy.
  • Although the National Electricity Plan calls for a move towards renewable energy, it also predicts a large rise in new coal capacity, indicating a departure from carbon neutrality goals.
Criticism of Climate Targets:
  • India’s climate goals and strategies have drawn criticism from Climate Action Tracker for being “highly insufficient.”
  • This evaluation is predicated on the assumption that India’s overall emissions will continue to climb past 2030 under the existing policy.
  • India must not only meet but also continue to fall short of the projections made under present policies in order to fairly participate in the global effort to combat the climate issue.
  • Impact of Climate Change on India:
  • In India, the frequency and intensity of heatwaves have increased, indicating the effects of climate change.
  • There are twice as many heatwaves in the nation per year as there were twenty years ago, with an average of 23.5.
  • An increase in heat-related deaths is correlated with an increase in heatwave incidences, which highlights the need for improved renewable energy infrastructure to keep up with the demand for electricity, especially for cooling.
  • Future Policy Decisions and Leadership Test:
  • India’s energy policy choices in the upcoming years will be critical to striking a balance between environmental sustainability and economic development.
  • Given that renewables are the least expensive energy source, India’s decision to pursue a renewable energy trajectory will also make financial sense and serve as a test of its leadership in the Global South and commitment to the Paris Agreement.
Conclusion:
  • India has a complex plan in place to combat climate change and move towards renewable energy.
  • It will be crucial to strike a balance between environmental responsibility and economic progress, and India’s actions in the next ten years will be a key indicator of its commitment to mitigating the effects of climate change worldwide.
  • The nation has enormous potential for developing renewable energy, and how it grows and scales up this capacity will be critical to its involvement in international climate action.
PYQ: Describe the major outcomes of the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). What are the commitments made by India in this conference? (UPSC CSE (M) GS-3 2021) (250 words/15 m)
Practice Question: Evaluate India’s Approach to Climate Change Mitigation and Renewable Energy Transition in the Context of COP28. Discuss the challenges faced by India in balancing economic development with environmental sustainability. (250 words/15 m)

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