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Education sector needs enlightened approach!
careers360.com , 26 August 2014
THE malaise in India’s education sector has reached frightening proportions. From nursery admissions to the PhD level, access to good quality education is a struggle for India’s citizens, resulting in very negative, competitively-driven outcomes such as a loss in quality of life for both students and parents, uni-dimensionally focussed youth, and a competitive spirit that is exhausted by the time the young reach the work-force! On the other hand, there is a proliferation of dubious service providers that engage in activities ranging from the fulfilling of homework commitments; the writing of proposals/ essays for admission to international universities; attracting students to sub-standard educational institutions and finally providing services that allow institutions to claim 100% placements on this count. In all of the above, it is the despairing student and his family that is fleeced, fooled and failed in society. While the Hon’ble Minister for Human Resource Development must focus on all of the above issues, from the perspective of the TERI University – which is a research University – the following issues need urgent attention: Ensure an environment of excellence: There has been a long drawn out discussion on whether ‘foreign’ universities should be allowed into India or not. But, that is not the moot point. India needs to ensure that it is providing its educational institutions – foreign or national – an operating environment that would attract the brightest minds as faculty members, encourage innovation and knowledge creation, generate curiosity in students and enable them to develop well-rounded personalities with a sense of societal responsibility. The current ‘caste-based’ system (public, private and deemed) of recognizing and supporting universities, even if they are all Indian universities, is definitely not aligned with the aspiration of having Indian universities recognized in global rankings. The ‘caste-based’ system of recognising and supporting universities, even if they are all Indian universities, is definitely not aligned with the aspiration of having Indian universities recognised in global rankings Strengthen the regulatory oversight and accreditation system: This action should again be designed with the intent of providing good quality education that is available in adequate quantities. Part of the current malaise we see is due to a failure in the design, communication and enforcement of a regulatory framework as well as a poor monitoring and evaluation framework. Ensuring adequate supply of good quality educational institutions would allow the market to function as a price regulator more effectively than any other mechanism. Improve supply of faculty resources: A postgraduate student has the option of entering the job market or going on to do research as a PhD student. The best students would today start off on a salary upwards of Rs. 50,000 per month increasing rapidly over a period of 4-5 years. A PhD student gets a stipend of about Rs. 20,000 per month which remains stagnant for the period in which he completes his work. At the end of his or her doctoral studies, the student has limited options for employment, being forced primarily into the education sector as the value of a PhD in other economic sectors of India is yet to be recognized. While several other points can be added to this list, at this point it is sufficient to say that we need a more enlightened approach to deal with the challenges of the education sector – which are large but manageable. By: Dr. Leena Srivastava
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Responding to Sustainable Development Issues: News of research and academic initiatives on sustainability has to move from educational supplements to mainstream
The Financial Express, 18 August 2014
This year marks the end of the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). Let us just sit back and look at the progress made. Whilst in India, we have moved ahead in the area of environmental education, it is the core concept of integrating sustainable development into our higher education system that remains a not-so-well-understood concept. The unique holistic and cross-cutting nature of education for sustainable development (ESD) remains a goal to be achieved in most of our universities. In spite of the fact that universities need to be engines and innovation centres in sustainable development, there are just a handful of universities that devote themselves to creating knowledge for sustainable development. So, what needs to be done? It should be obvious in today’s context that universities can inculcate the spirit of sustainability in their students, not just by incorporating more theory into their curricula but more so through an experiential learning platform of field work and exercises to understand and reduce the unsustainable impacts of present lifestyles. We could say that Indian universities have a different, and probably easier, playing ground than other global universities. This comes from the fact that our commitment towards sustainability is rooted in the age-old traditions of living in equilibrium with nature and all its elements. We only have to draw from these traditions as we move ahead. Universities in India only need to be helped towards responding to sustainable development issues. We need to have a macro-level approach to reorient our higher education. This is an opportune moment, when we have a new government, and when higher education is one of the priority areas. Three aspects need to be looked at—systemic thinking has to be an approach towards our higher education, greater focus towards capacity building at various levels including skill development and involvement of the media to do a blitzkrieg in improving public understanding of sustainable living. Most universities have responded by adding a couple of courses on sustainability issues. That won’t do. What is required is a change in the thinking and the approach of the academia—a movement away from ‘environmental education’ to ‘education for sustainable development’; a movement away from the departmental or stream-wise thinking to a systemic approach to issues and challenges that the world is facing. Curriculum will follow. Our universities have to focus on capacity building—to raise awareness and provide students with the skills and expertise required for the protection of the environment. This doesn’t mean that we do away with theory. Theoretical underpinnings are extremely important. But when the thinking of teachers reorients towards a sustainability-science and systemic approach, skill development amongst students of higher education to tackle the issues the world, a shared home, faces, will automatically follow. With the time-bomb of climate change not just ticking away but clanging away, only a blitzkrieg by the media and advertising agencies towards promoting public opinion can result in a wider understanding of the principles of sustainable development and an engagement with universities on educational and research initiatives. News of research and academic initiatives on sustainability, like the setting up of a new programme on Water Science and Governance at the Teri University, has to move from educational supplements to mainstream! It is greater public opinion which will result in a growth of greater social responsibility and an understanding of the cause and effect relationship in consumptive lifestyles. Ultimately, it is imperative that our universities accept the urgent need to move from academic discourses on sustainable development to action-oriented involvement of the youth in solving issues that the world faces, through a holistic and systemic approach. Rajiv Seth The author is Registrar, Teri University. Views are personal
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Polite noises: Budget lacks a renewable energy vision
The Hindu Business Line, 21 July 2014
General budget presented by the Union Finance Minister has many positives for renewable energy sector, particularly for solar photovoltaic, wind, and biomass fields. While a total sum of 1,000 crore has been proposed for solar energy projects, a slew of fiscal benefits are accorded to wind and biogas. While these certainly are welcome steps, what is lacking is a ‘vision’ about Indian renewable energy sector. This is especially disappointing after the Prime Minister’s declaration of making India a global force. From that perspective, absence of substantial budgetary allocations for indigenous R&D in renewable energy is inexplicable. Just for comparison, estimated budget for R&D in the atomic energy at 3,430 crore is close to the total budget for Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, which is estimated to be 3,941 crore. Likewise, the budget proposes piece-meal measures such as reduction in custom duties. However, a holistic push to make India a ‘renewable energy manufacturing hub’ is missing. Stay competitive In this era of global competition, only way the domestic industry could grow is by remaining competitive in every which way. Protection measures like anti-dumping duties, at best are, Band-Aid solutions only. Instead technology collaboration, upgradation, and economies of scale are the need of the day. It was expected, therefore, that the budget would propose specific schemes and impetus for the renewable energy manufacturing industry. Even budgetary allocations for solar energy indicate some sort of tokenism. For instance, 500 crore has been allocated for Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Laddakh. Earlier, for such a project at Sambar Lake in Rajasthan, it was estimated that 7,500 crore would be required to set up 1000 MW capacity in the first phase. Sure, lots of this would come as private investments, but infrastructure development for solar parks of this scale itself would entail an investment of substantially higher level. Considering that financing of renewable energy projects, especially for the smaller projects, has been one of the key impediments to accelerated uptake of renewable energy in the country, a dedicated fund on the lines of 10,000 crore fund for MSMEs for providing equity, quasi equity, soft loans and other risk capital would have gone a long way in addressing this important issue. For energy innovations While the Clean Energy Cess on coal is proposed to increase from 50 per tonne to 100 per tonne, expanding the scope of National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) to ‘financing and promoting clean environment initiatives’ and funding research in the area of clean environment would have wider implications. NCEF has hardly supported any research project in the field of clean energy. With financing of projects also becoming its mandate, it would be used more as an extra-budgetary source for meeting routine requirements. Moreover, mandating NCEF to promote clean ‘environment initiatives’ would make it more of a generic fund, thereby deviating widely from its originally envisaged focus on clean ‘energy’ innovations. It would also be useful if other initiatives such as National Rural Livelihood Mission, Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and Rural Infrastructure Development Fund are designed in more integrated fashion, making renewable energy one of their central architectural elements- Amit Kumar The writer is on the faculty of Teri University (This article was published on July 20, 2014)
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Date News Title Source
20 July 2014 Coca-Cola, TERI University fund water management s... The Daily Star
14 July 2014 Sustainable Soulutions... The Times of India (Education Times, Delhi)
8 July 2014 Water world: TERI University invests in regional w... India Today (Aspire)
7 July 2014 Sustainable, green development and gender equality... The Hindu
7 July 2014 Global initiative seeks answers to eco-challenges ... Business Standard

 
Malnutrition and Its Linkage to Sustainable Development
ThinK to Sustain, 10 February 2012

Nida Yamin, a student at TERI University, explores the long-prevalent issue of malnutrition in India and its effects on growth and development of the country as a whole, and suggests how community-based programs can improve the situation and lead to national nutrition security.   
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