News Wrap


According to a recent report on education in rural India, fewer than half of pupils in Class V could properly read a text for Class II pupils. Almost a fifth in Class II could not recognise single-digit numbers. Education system in India favours elitism over basic schooling. OECD studies have identified that the top 5% of 15-year olds in two Indian states performed as well as average rich country children in reading, mathematics and science. The rest were far behind. Technology firms have found that graduate recruits are not up to scratch. One industry body feels that only a quarter with technical degrees are considered employable. A good school leaving mark can be a gateway to college and  decent job in government, computing or banking. Newspaper photographs of parents scaling the walls of an exam hall for Class X final exams in Bihar, a largely rural state, with the purpose of passing cheating scribble papers to students, offer the latest evidence of India’s failing school system.

In India high enrolment in undergraduate colleges and universities, combined with low growth, has led to high graduate unemployment. With the modern economy driven by human capital, the government wants top-class universities. Little effort has gone into whether Indian universities actually educate people. Private provision and private colleges are growing. Mediocrity prevails in India’s higher education system. There is fierce competition for access to Indian Institutes of Technology. New private non-profit institutions are helping to broaden the provision for higher education, including Azim Premji University in Bangalore and Shiv Nadar University near Delhi, whose fortunes have emanated from IT companies.

Free Yoga Classes
A recently announed strategy of the Union Government of India is to provide free yoga classes to India’s much criticised government officials. It is to be hoped that the country’s much criticised officials will relax, stay healthy and work more productively. The ancient Indian discipline has inspired the biggest campaign of physical education. The government will provide daily yoga lessons to three million civil government servants and their families. There is likely to be considerable pressure to attend, even though the classes may not be compulsory. Many yoga gurus in Delhi have welcomed the move, as it would improve the health and performance of civil servants. Prime Minister Narendra Modi practises enthusiastically, with an hour’s yoga exercise every morning. A separate ministry has been created to promote yoga.

Public Kissing
Near the coastal Goa state’s capital Panaji, the village parliament of Salvador do Mundo unanimously passed a resulution in the last week of March 2015, banning couples kissing in public. It has been claimed that the sight of such ‘obsence’ behaviour is unwanted by local residents. Villagers had been complaining about couples kissing in public. The village panchayat had complained to local authorities. A lack of response had forced the village council to take matters into their own hands. A resoultion was passed which also ‘banned public drinking and playing loud music’. It is unclear whether punitive action will be taken, against those who break the laws and bylaws. Goa’s serene beaches attract tourists in a big way. In local eyes, couples frequently act indecently. A string of controversial statements by local politicians has dented Goa’s tourist-friendly image. A top state Goan Minister demanded a ban on wearing bikinis on beaches, which drew criticism from the public and tourism industry, in 2014.

Killing Fields in Iraq
Iraqi forces re-took Tikrit city in beginnig April 2015, from the clutches of ISIS militants. Forensic teams have been excavating suspected mass graves in Tikrit, believed to contain up to 1700 bodies. The teams have exhumed the remains of hundreds of people, believed to have been massacred by jihadists. DNA testing is continuing to confirm their identity. The twelve excavated sites are believed to contain bodies of soldiers, who were killed in a mass execution. As propaganda, the executions were photographed and circulated online by ISIS. Earlier photographs released by jihadists and satellite images showed mass graves shortly after the extremist group swept through northern Iraq, in its bloody insurgency. The victims are believed to be mostly Shia soldiers. The massacre has been denouned as one of the worst, since ISIS began its rapid advance. The soldier victims were reportedly from Camp Speicher, a former US base, outside Tikrit, the home town of Sadam Hussain. The pictures of June 2014, showed ISIS gunmen firing at captives lying in trenches, with their arms tied.

Vol. 47, No. 48, June 7 - 13, 2015