Issues related to Health & Education
- National Education Policy 2020
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
- High levels of ammonia in Yamuna water
- Sustainable Ocean Economy for 2050 Report
Bilateral & International Relations
- MoU between India and Zimbabwe in Medicine
Art & Culture
Science & Technology
- A look at NASA’s mission to Mars
- Start of Assembly of the ITER Tokamak
- AstroGen Project
Key Facts for Prelims
- Awards of MoES
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Issues related to Health & Education
National Education Policy 2020
The Union Cabinet passed India’s first new National Education Policy in at least 28 years.
School Education reforms:
Ensuring Universal Access at all levels of school education
- Universalization of Education from pre-school to secondary level with 100 % Gross enrolment ratio (GER) in school education by 2030, aligning with SDG 4 (Sustainable Development Goal 4 – Quality Education).
- Proposed ways for achieving this: Infrastructure support, innovative education centres to bring back dropouts (about 2 crore) into the mainstream, association of counselors/social workers with schools, open learning for classes 3, 5 and 8 through NIOS and State Open Schools, adult literacy etc.
Early Childhood Care
- 10+2 structure of school curricula will be
replaced by a 5+3+3+4 curricular structure.
- 5+3+3+4 structure = a foundational stage from age 3 to 8 (Grades 1, 2), three years of pre-primary education from 8 to 11 (Grades 3 to 5), preparatory stage from 11 to 14 (Grades 6 to 8) and secondary stage from 14 to 18 year (Grades 9 to 12).
- Significance: bring the uncovered age group of 3-6 years under school curriculum (crucial stage for development of mental faculties of a child). The new system will have 12 years of schooling with 3 years of Anganwadi/ pre schooling.
National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education
- NCERT will develop a National Curricular and Pedagogical Framework for Early Childhood Care and Education (NCPFECCE) for children up to the age of 8.
- ECCE will be delivered through Anganwadis and pre-schools.
- Implementation of ECCE: jointly by the Ministries of HRD, Women and Child Development, Health and Family Welfare, and Tribal Affairs.
Attaining Foundational Literacy and Numeracy
- Setting up of a National Mission on Foundational Literacy and Numeracy by MHRD.
- Aims to attain universal foundational literacy and numeracy in all primary schools by grade 3 by 2025.
Reforms in school curricula and pedagogy
- A new National Curricular Framework for School Education (NCFSE 2020-21) will be developed by the NCERT.
- Equipping students with the key 21st century skills,
- Reduction in curricular content to enhance essential learning
- Increased flexibility and choice of subjects.
- No rigid separations between arts and sciences, between curricular and extra-curricular activities, between vocational and academic streams.
- Vocational education will start in schools from the 6th grade, and will include internships.
Multilingualism and the power of language
- Mother tongue/local language as the medium of instruction at least till Grade 5, but preferably till Grade 8 and beyond.
- Sanskrit to be offered at all levels of school and higher education as an option for students, including in the three-language formula (provided for the study of “Hindi, English and modern Indian language in the Hindi speaking states and Hindi, English and the Regional language in the non-Hindi Speaking States).
- Other classical languages also to be available as options. No language will be imposed on any student. Several foreign languages will also be offered at the secondary level.
- Indian Sign Language (ISL) will be standardized across the country.
- All students will take school examinations in Grades 3, 5, and 8.
- Board exams for Grades 10 and 12 will be
continued, but redesigned with holistic development.
- Suggests options to make exams stress-free. For instance, school boards could provide options to students on whether they want to take a tough maths exam or the comparatively easier version.
- National Assessment Centre, PARAKH (Performance Assessment, Review, and Analysis of Knowledge for Holistic Development) will be set up as a standard-setting body.
Equitable and Inclusive Education
- Setting up of Gender Inclusion Fund and also Special Education Zones for disadvantaged regions and groups.
- State/district will be encouraged to establish “Bal Bhavans” as a special daytime boarding school.
- Free school infrastructure can be used as Samajik Chetna Kendras.
Robust Teacher Recruitment and Career Path
- National Professional Standards for Teachers (NPST) will be developed by the National Council for Teacher Education by 2022.
- Significance: Teachers will be recruited through transparent processes. Promotions will be merit-based.
Standard-setting and Accreditation for School Education
- States/UTs will set up independent State School Standards Authority (SSSA). The SCERT will develop a School Quality Assessment and Accreditation Framework (SQAAF).
- Significance: Transparent public self-disclosure of basic regulatory information, as laid down by the SSSA, will be used extensively for public oversight and accountability.
Increase GER to 50 % by 2035
- Increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education from 26.3% (2018) to 50% by 2035.
- Plans to add 35 million seats to higher education institutions.
Holistic Multidisciplinary Education
- By 2040, all higher education institutions (HEIs) shall aim to become multidisciplinary.
- By 2030, there will be at least one large multidisciplinary institution in or near every district.
- Under Graduate (UG) education can be of 3 or 4
years with multiple exit options and appropriate certification within this
- For example, a certificate after 1 year, advanced diploma after 2 years, Bachelor’s Degree after 3 years and Bachelor’s degree with Research after 4 years.
- Establishment of
- Academic Bank of Credit for digitally storing academic credits so that these can be transferred and counted towards final degree earned.
- Multidisciplinary Education and Research Universities (MERUs), at par with IITs, IIMs, to be set up.
- National Research Foundation as an apex body for fostering a strong research across higher education.
- Higher Education Commission of India (HECI) will be set up as a single overarching umbrella body the for entire higher education, excluding medical and legal education.
- HECI to have 4 independent verticals – National Higher Education Regulatory Council (NHERC) for regulation, General Education Council (GEC) for standard setting, Higher Education Grants Council (HEGC) for funding, and National Accreditation Council (NAC) for accreditation.
Rationalised Institutional Architecture
- Affiliation of colleges is to be phased out in 15 years.
- Over a period of time, it is envisaged that every college would develop into either an Autonomous degree-granting College, or a constituent college of a university.
- National Curriculum Framework for Teacher Education (NCFTE 2021) will be formulated. By 2030, the minimum degree qualification for teaching will be a 4-year integrated B.Ed. degree.
- A National Mission for Mentoring will be established with outstanding senior faculty who will provide mentoring support to university.
Technology in education
- An autonomous body, the National Educational Technology Forum (NETF) for the free exchange of ideas on the use of technology.
- Appropriate integration of technology into all levels of education will be done to improve classroom processes, support teacher professional development, enhance educational access for disadvantaged groups and streamline educational planning.
Promotion of Indian languages
- Recommends setting Indian Institute of Translation and Interpretation (IITI) and National Institute for Pali, Persian and Prakrit to ensure preservation of all Indian languages.
- Aims to achieve 100% youth and adult literacy.
- Aim to increase the public investment in Education sector to reach 6% of GDP at the earliest from around 4% now.
- Stand-alone technical universities, health science universities, legal and agricultural universities etc will aim to become multi-disciplinary institutions.
Other Outcomes of NEP 2020
- Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) renamed as Ministry of Education.
- Teachers to be prepared for assessment reforms by 2023
- A report cards will be a comprehensive report on skills and capabilities instead of just marks and statements.
- MPhil courses to be discontinued.
- Inclusive & Equitable Education System by 2030.
- Board Exams to test core concepts and application of knowledge.
- Every Child will come out of School adept in at least one Skill.
- Common Standards of Learning in Public
& Private Schools.
- Currently there are different norms for deemed universities, central universities, for different individual standalone institutions.
- Private Philanthropic Partnership.
Snapshot of Evolution of Education Policy
- University Education Commission (1948-49)
- Secondary Education Commission (1952-53)
- Education Commission (1964-66) under Dr. D. S. Kothari
- National Policy on Education, 1968
- 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976- Education in Concurrent List
- National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986
- NPE 1986 Modified in 1992 (Programme of Action, 1992)
- T.S.R. Subramaniam Committee Report (2016)
- Dr. K. Kasturirangan Committee Report (2019)
Environment, Ecology & Disaster Management
High levels of ammonia in Yamuna water
Delhi Jal Board (DJB) had to reduce water production capacity by 25 % after high levels of ammonia were detected in the Yamuna river. The level of ammonia in raw water was 1.8 parts per million (ppm).
- Source: Most likely source of ammonia in Yamuna is believed to be effluents from dye units, distilleries and other factories in Panipat and Sonepat districts in Haryana, and also sewage from some unsewered colonies in this stretch of Yamuna.
What is acceptable maximum limit of ammonia?
- As per the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), the acceptable maximum limit of ammonia in drinking water is 0.5 ppm.
What is ammonia?
- Ammonia is a colourless gas.
- It is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilisers, plastics, synthetic fibres, dyes and other products.
- Ammonia occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter, and may also find its way to ground and surface water sources through industrial effluents or through contamination by sewage.
What are its effects?
- If the concentration of ammonia in water is above 1 ppm it is toxic to fishes.
- In humans, long term ingestion of water having ammonia levels of 1 ppm or above may cause damage to internal organs.
What is the long-term solution to the problem?
- Stringent implementation of guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the river.
- Making sure untreated sewage does not enter the water.
- Maintain a sustainable minimum flow, called the ecological
- This is the minimum amount of water that should flow throughout the river at all times to sustain underwater and estuarine ecosystems and human livelihoods, and for self-regulation.
Dispute of maintaining ecological flow
- With Delhi dependent on Haryana for up to 70 % of its water needs, it has approached the courts several times to get equitable share of water.
- Haryana, with a large number of people involved in agriculture, has water paucity issues of its own. Both states have argued over maintaining 10 cumecs (cubic meter per second) flow in the Yamuna at all times.
- The lack of a minimum ecological flow also means accumulation of other pollutants.
About River Yamuna
- Yamuna river originates from Yamnotri glacier which is near Bandarpoonch peaks in the Mussoorie range of the lower Himalayas in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand.
- It covers distance through Uttarakhand to Allahabad, where the Kumbh Mela is held after every 12 years.
- It is the tributary river of the Ganges (Ganga) and the longest tributary in India.
- It travels a total length of 1,376 kilometers and has a drainage system of 366,223 square kilometers, 40.2% of the entire Ganges Basin. The catchment of the Yamuna River system covers parts of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh & Delhi states.
- After it flows through Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Delhi, it meets river ganga at the Sangam in Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh.
- Tributaries (rightr bank): Chambal, Betwa, Ken, Sindh
Sustainable Ocean Economy for 2050 Report
A report named Sustainable Ocean Economy for 2050: Approximating Its Benefits and Costs by the World Resources Institute.
According to the report, Offshore wind energy generation can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as increase return on the investment made to scale up these technologies.
- The ocean and its resources provide key ecosystem services and benefits (including food, energy, recreational/ cultural services and trading/transport routes) that are crucial for human wellbeing and the prosperity of the global economy.
- However, climate change, overfishing, pollution and a loss of biodiversity and coastal ecosystems are eroding the ability of the ocean to sustain livelihoods and prosperity.
- Focusing on four ocean-based policy
- Conserving and restoring mangrove habitats
- Scaling up offshore wind production.
- Decarbonizing the international shipping sector
- Increasing the production of sustainably sourced ocean-based proteins.
- Sustainable ocean-based investments yield benefits at least five times greater than the costs.
- Investing $2.0–$3.7 trillion globally across the four areas from 2020 to 2050 would generate $8.2–$22.8 trillion in net benefits (average $15.5 trillion), implying a Rate of Return on Investment of 400–615 per cent.
ROI on Scaling up Offshore Wind Energy:
- An increase in offshore wind energy generation between 650 and 3,500 terawatt-hours (TWh) every year by 2050 was also estimated to take place.
- Most offshore installations are currently in Europe, but a significant increase was expected in Asia, especially in China.
- Reduction of 0.3-1.61 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide every year by 2050.
- The total discounted health benefits by transitioning to offshore renewable energy were pegged between $0.15 trillion and $4.4 trillion by 2020–50.
- The benefits of water savings can be between $1.3 billion and $1.4 trillion over 2020-50.
Bilateral & International Relations
MoU between India and Zimbabwe in Medicine
Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister approved the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Zimbabwe on Cooperation in the field of Traditional System of Medicine and Homeopathy
About the MoU:
Provide a framework for the cooperation between the two countries for the promotion of traditional systems of medicine and homoeopathy and will mutually benefit the two countries in the field of Traditional Medicine.
The main objective of the MoU is to strengthen, promote and develop co-operation in the field of traditional systems of medicine between the two countries based on equality and mutual benefit.
Areas of cooperation (among others) include:
- Promotion in the regulation of teaching, practice, drugs, and drugless therapies within the scope of the MoU
- Supply of all medicine materials and documents necessary for demonstration and reference in achieving the objectives specified within the framework of the MoU.
- Exchange of experts for the training of practitioners, paramedics, scientists, teaching professionals and students.
- Any other areas and/or forms of cooperation mutually agreed upon subsequently by the Parties.
- Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa.
- Bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique.
- Located between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers.
- Harare is the capital and largest city while Bulawayo is the second-largest city.
- Natural resources found here include coal, gold, nickel, copper, iron ore, lithium, platinum group metals etc.
A brief snapshot of India-Zimbabwe relations:
- During the era of the Munhumutapa Kingdom, Indian merchants established strong links with Zimbabwe, trading in textiles, minerals and metals. Sons of the royal house of Munhumutapa journeyed to India to broaden their education. In the 17th century, a great son of Zimbabwe, Dom Miguel – Prince, Priest and Professor, and heir to the imperial throne of the Mutapas – studied in Goa.
- India supported Zimbabwe’s freedom struggle. Former Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi attended Zimbabwean independence celebrations in Harare in 1980.
- Recently, during the visit by the Hon’ble Vice President of India, 5 MoUs in the fields of (i) Arts, Culture & Heritage, (ii) Geology, Mining and Mineral Resources, (iii) Traditional Medicines and Homeopathy; (iv)Broadcasting collaboration between Prasar Bharati and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and (v) Reciprocal Exemption of Visa Requirements for Holders of Diplomatic Passports and an Action Plan on ICT were signed.
- India is involved in capacity building programs through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) and Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) for the students of Zimbabwe.
- India has extended assistance/ aid like exporting rice, construction of thermal power plants, water pumping stations, granting medicines and among others.
- Numerous Indian businesses have set up plants in the field of food processing, pharmaceuticals and agro-processing.
Art & Culture
Natesa, a rare sandstone idol, currently located in London, UK, will be returning to the country after 22 years.
- The Natesa icon was from the Ghateswara Temple, Baroli, Rajasthan.
- In the 9th-century Prathihara style of Rajasthan.
- Depicts Lord Shiva along with Nandi and stands almost 4 ft in height.
- The Gurjara-Pratiharas, also known as the Pratihara Empire, ruled much of Northern India from the mid-7th to the 11th century.
- There were two dynasties of the empire. The line of Harichandra ruled in Mandor, Marwar (Jodhpur, Rajasthan), during the 6th to 9th centuries.
- The line of Nagabhata ruled first at Ujjain and later at Kannauj during the 8th to 11th centuries. Other Gurjara lines existed, but they did not take the surname Pratihara.
- Nagabhata I (730-756) was a great ruler based in Avanti (Ujjain). He ruled Gwalior and its fort on which the modern Tomara fort is built. He also ruled the regions in and around Morena.
- Nagabhatta II (800-833) rebuilt the great Somnath temple in Gujarat which had been destroyed by the Islamic invaders earlier.
- In the tenth century, the dynasty broke up into the Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandellas of Bundelkhand, the Kalachuris of Mahakoshal, the Solankis of Rajasthan and the Kachhapaghatas of Gwalior, who ruled Morena and the Chambal region.
- The Pratiharas were the most important dynasty of medieval northern India, and their disappearance marked a stage in the political decline that accompanied the Muslim conquest.
Art and Architecture under Gurjara-Pratihara rulers:
- The Gurjara-Pratihara rulers were patrons of art and commissioned thousands of Hindu temples across the kingdom.
- Notable sculptures include Viswaroopa form of Vishnu and Marriage of Siva and Parvati from Kannauj. The female figure named as Sursundari exhibited in Gwalior Museum is one of the most charming sculptures.
- The most important groups of architectural works generally credited to the early Pratiharas are at Osian in Gujarat. These consisted of five-bay mulaprasadas with porch and open hall but no vestibule or ambulatory and several have five-shrine complexes (Pancha-yatana).
- The Teli-ka-Mandir in Gwalior fort is the oldest surviving large-scale Pratihara work. This work is dedicated to Shakti cult.
- The Vishnu and Someshwara Temples at Kiradu may be taken as representative of the culmination of the Pratihara tradition.
- Other important temples include the Ghateshwara at Baroli, Ambika Matha at Jagat and among others.
Science & Technology
A look at NASA’s mission to Mars
NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is set to launch.
NASA’s past mars missions
- 1997: Mars Pathfinder Mission with the Sojourner rover (lasted for 83 days)
- 2003: Spirit rover (lasted 6 years) and Opportunity rover (lasted 15 years)
- 2012: Curiosity Rover (continues to operate today)
Significance of Rovers on Mars
- Rovers provide a way to study the local area in much higher resolution than is possible from an orbiting spacecraft.
- In addition, rovers have a suite of instruments from drills to spectrometers to microscopic imagers: these instruments help understand the local geology much like a field geologist would study rocks on Earth.
- In addition, starting with Spirit and Opportunity, rovers have acted as mobile weather stations on Mars that monitor changes in the Martian atmosphere continuously over multiple years.
New Features of Perseverance rover
- Perseverance will carry a MOXIE or Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment: which for the first time will manufacture molecular oxygen on Mars using carbon dioxide from the carbon-dioxide-rich atmosphere.
- There is the new push for ISRU at NASA. ISRU means In Situ Resource Utilization: or the use of local resources to meet human needs or requirements of the spacecraft.
- Without ISRU, exploration of Mars in the future decades will be incredibly expensive and thereby impossible.
- If oxygen can be successfully extracted on Mars in some significant scale, this can have two direct advantages: first, the oxygen can be used for human visitors to Mars, and second, the oxygen can be used to manufacture rocket fuel for the return journey.
- Perseverance will carry Ingenuity, the first ever helicopter to fly on Mars.
- Also, this is the first time NASA will fly a helicopter on another planet or satellite.
- The challenge is to fly the helicopter in the thin atmosphere of Mars. Like a drone on Earth, a Mars helicopter can help in rover drive planning and in fetching samples from locations that the rover cannot safely drive to.
Looking for biosignatures
- Perseverance will bring back rock samples from Mars for analysis, with the goal of looking for biosignatures (signatures of present or past life).
- Perseverance will collect samples and a second rover mission will fly within a decade to help transport the rock samples back to Earth.
- Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, after Mercury.
- It is also known as “Red Planet” because of iron oxide prevalent on Mars’s surface.
- Mars rotates on its axis every 24.6 Earth hours, defining the length of a Martian day, which is called a sol (short for “solar day”).
- It has thin atmosphere, with surface features similar of impact craters of the Moon, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth.
- Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and irregularly shaped.
- Mars has Olympus Mons, the largest volcano and highest known mountain on any planet in the Solar System and of Valles Marineris, one of the largest canyons in the Solar System.
- Mariner 4 (1964) of NASA was the first spacecraft to get closer to Mars (did not land on mars).
Significance of studying Mars
- The scientific reasons for going to Mars are search for life, understanding the surface and the planet’s evolution, and preparing for future human exploration.
- The days and seasons are comparable to those of Earth, because the rotational period as well as the tilt of the rotational axis relative to the ecliptic plane are similar.
- Mars land area is also roughly equivalent to the surface area of Earth’s continents. Hence, Mars can also help us to learn more about Earth. Understanding martian geophysical processes promises to uncover details of the evolution and history of Earth and other planets in Solar System.
Start of Assembly of the ITER Tokamak
- The International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Organization is celebrating the Start of Assembly of the ITER Tokamak in France.
- On this occasion, the Prime Minister of India congratulated the ITER organization. India`s contributions to the project include the cryostat, in-vessel shields, contributions to the cooling water and among others.
What is ITER?
- ITER is an experimental fusion reactor facility being constructed in France to prove the feasibility of nuclear fusion for future source of energy.
- ITER partners are the European Union, China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia and the United States of America. European Union being the host party contributes 45% while the rest of the parties contribute 9% each. Most of these contributions are through ‘in-kind’ procurement of ITER components.
- India formally joined the ITER Project in 2005 and the ITER Agreement between the partners was signed in 2006.
- ITER’s First Plasma is scheduled for December 2025.
What is Fusion?
- Fusion is the energy source of the Sun and stars. In the tremendous heat and gravity at the core of these stellar bodies, hydrogen nuclei collide, fuse into heavier helium atoms and release tremendous amounts of energy in the process.
- Three conditions must be fulfilled to achieve fusion in a laboratory: very high temperature (on the order of 150,000,000° Celsius); sufficient plasma particle density (to increase the likelihood that collisions do occur); and sufficient confinement time (to hold the plasma, which has a propensity to expand, within a defined volume).
- First developed by Soviet research in the late 1960s. The term tokamak stands for the toroidal chamber with magnetic coils.
- A tokamak is an experimental machine designed to harness the energy of fusion. Inside a tokamak, the energy produced through the fusion of atoms is absorbed as heat in the walls of the vessel.
- Just like a conventional power plant, a fusion power plant will use this heat to produce steam and then electricity by way of turbines and generators.
- The heart of a tokamak is its doughnut-shaped vacuum chamber. Inside, under the influence of extreme heat and pressure, gaseous hydrogen fuel becomes a plasma.
- Recently, Astronomy Genealogy or AstroGen project was launched.
- It is a genealogy project for academics who earned doctorates on astronomy-related theses or supervised research for such dissertations.
- It was launched by the American Astronomical Society (AAS).
- The database which goes back to 1766 provides information on more than 33,000 astronomers, their advisors and universities and the links to their dissertations.
- Help trace academic ancestors and descendants.
- Facilitate studies of the astronomical community by historians and sociologists of science.
Scientists of the S.N. Bose National Centre For Basic Sciences (SNBNCBS), Kolkata, an autonomous research Institute under the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India, have developed AJO-Neo.
- AJO-Neo is a No-touch & Painless device for non-invasive screening of bilirubin level in new-borns.
- The device operates on non-contact and non-invasive spectrometry-based techniques.
- It is reliable in measuring bilirubin levels in preterm, and term neonates irrespective of gestational or postnatal age, sex, risk factors, feeding behaviour or skin colour.
- The device is found to deliver an almost instantaneous report (about 10 seconds) to a concerned doctor.
- Bilirubin is a yellowish substance in the blood. It forms after red blood cells break down, and it travels through the liver, gallbladder, and digestive tract before being excreted.
- Careful screening of bilirubin level in new-borns is mandatory as per American Academy of Paediatrics (2004), to reduce incidents of a type of brain damage called kernicterus that can result from high levels of bilirubin in a baby’s blood.
Prelims Key Facts
Awards of MoES
The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has announced National Awards to eminent scientists/engineers who made major scientific contributions in various fields of Earth System Science.[Ref: PIB]