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Much to welcome in New Education Policy, a better-educated India is vital for all: Tharoor

Former HRD Minister and eminent writer Shashi Tharoor has welcomed Modi government’s National Education Policy

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Overhauling India’s higher education system, the Modi government Wednesday announced the new education policy. Experts think the National Education Policy (NEP) has the credentials to restructure the education system of India in a futuristic perspective.

A better-educated India is vital for all

Former education minister, law maker and eminent writer Shashi Tharoor is of the opinion that there’s much to welcome in the new education policy. “There is much to welcome in the New Education Policy 2020. A number of suggestions made by some of us seem to have been taken into account,” Tharoor tweeted.

The Congress leader also asked why this was not brought before Parliament first for discussion.

Tharoor has been advocated revision of the 1986 National Education Policy to bring it into the 21st century, since his days in the Ministry of Human Resource and Development

“I am glad the Modi government has finally grasped the nettle, even if it took them six years to do so. Challenge is to ensure aspiration is matched by implementation.

“The goal of 6% of GDP to be spent on education was first articulated in 1948! Every government articulates this target and then comes up against its own Finance Ministry. In the last 6 years, Modi government’s expenditure in education has declined in real terms. How will it reach 6%?,” Tharoor asked in his tweet.

He also said that the goals of 50 % Gross Enrolment Ratio in higher education and 100 % in secondary school are laudable, but there’s a rider. “When you realise it’s currently 25.8% in higher education and 68 per cent in Class 9, you wonder if such targets are any more realistic than the Government’s solar-energy commitments at Paris.

Tharoor also suggested that the NEP should have offered more tangible and realisable targets for research. “Total investment on research and innovation in India declined from 0.84% of GDP in 2008 to 0.6 % in 2018. There are currently only 15 researchers in India per 100,000 of population, compared with 111 in China,” in a series of tweets, he argued.

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EP SPECIALS

Teachers and Parents as Role Models for Students – Why Actions must replace just theory

School wasn’t just a platform for learning (nor it is even today) but was a place that students looked forward to going every day, with cheer

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The moment a question during a lecture or discussion on Role Models is asked, especially to school students, answers of different types crop up, possibly based on their thought process and the traits they hold close to their heart.

We have been promoting the idea of Role Models in life, to make sure, at least for practical purposes, that students think of or emulate someone for whom they have a high level of regard or respect in life and also those that align with their own frame of mind.

He or she could be anyone-from sportsperson to businessman, from scientist to movie star.

One of the striking aspects these days is that the number which quotes the names of teachers or parents is diminishing. This is in contrast to the earlier times when both teachers and parents were among the favourites to be considered as Role Models.

So, a Ronaldo, a Mohanlal, Dr.APJ or a Bill Gates are more common answers.

What then, has been the reason for a change?

Predominantly and predictably, technology has played a major role in this change and so have social media. EASY access to information and the glorification of many characters including celebrities from various fields through umpteen channels and other platforms has possibly been one of the reasons. Added to this are the marketing campaigns, brand endorsements, stage shows, writeups and so on and so forth, available just by sliding a finger on hand held devices.

An essay on, say, Prof. C.V Raman or Srinivasa Ramanujan was an arduous task then, that required flipping through books or pages of printed matter. We had to depend on teachers or parents to get more information about them. We looked up to them for inputs thus forming a different impression about their level of awareness. The same could be done with effortless ease today, thanks to anything and everything that is available online or in the Cloud.

While we had relatively fewer modes of entertainment then- the cinema, or a restaurant, park or an outing or social visits and of course much more of play- teachers and parents gave us frequent doses of knowledge by mixing them with classes or through bedtime stories and during the ‘family time’.

There was much for us to learn from them as the time spent together was qualitative in nature and openness was obvious.

We saw in many or most of our teachers, a value that could be hardly substituted by anything else and looked forward to their sessions as they taught from the heart and not from the books alone. They were assumed to be power houses of knowledge and looking back, I for sure, on a personal note, could say that without a second thought.

Value Education which is separated today, was an integral part of their lesson plan, be it Hindi or Mathematics. Their experience, passion, commitment and their roles as mentors played a significant part in this change among students, not to forget THE FREEDOM THAT PARENTS GAVE TEACHERS IN DECIDING AND EXECUTING WHATEVER WAS BEFITTING. Even the mention of parents being called to the school was enough to send chills down the spines of students.

School wasn’t just a platform for learning (nor it is even today) but was a place that students looked forward to going every day, with cheer. It was a like a get together to learn life skills along with lessons, most of which aren’t very different today either. Naturality was evident as technology or gadgets weren’t the topics of discussion, nor were Facebook or Instagram posts or likes. Friends laughed their heart out through the common things. There was much fun and play. Teachers had absolute control.

At home, both parents weren’t working. As children, we knew that money never came easily as it does today. Pocket money couldn’t be dreamt of, leave alone heard about. We saw the struggles of parents; we didn’t dare question them. We didn’t have the luxury of selection of many things, but were happy about what they chose or bought for us.  Somewhere, we had this feeling that there were pairs of eyes constantly watching and guiding us, wherever we went.

There was an invisible guideline on what we were supposed to do

Connection was real, not virtual. Lack of time was never discussed. There was better communication, more time for each other and together. An impact was created, gradually.

There was an invisible guideline on what we were supposed to do.

Times have changed, they have to. A new world driven by technology is already visible. Sadly, there is also cut throat competition that is mostly unhealthy and thus follows a mad rush to be on top, just academically, more than anything else. Money has lost value and spending for more than what is required has gone up. A majority of children has the impression that parents have enough with them. Parents too go beyond means to provide the perceptible best for their children.

On the contrary, what has to be more evident is the foundation that existed earlier, one that was strong morally and ethically, without more of monetary considerations. Learning the hard way was natural for most of the students themselves.

While a majority of the current generation of teachers and parents is definitely knowledgeable and is tech savvy, it would have this rather sensitive and difficult task of making an impact on a student community that is only just short of gadget addiction, in keeping with the times. Elders too seem to be as affected by this, as their children.

Also to be understood is that the pressure on parents and teachers today is more than what it used to be long back, in the wake of a massive shift- culturally, economically, technologically and emotionally.

Practicing what is preached, supporting and guiding children to explore themselves, nurturing their talents and leading by example could put parents back on track to be their ideal Role Models.

Teachers on the other hand need to empathize with children, lift the ordinary ones to the higher slots, create a level playing field and an equal opportunity environment for all of them to get exposed, without bias. Most importantly passion needs to be a key ingredient of their sessions than just the rush to cover the portions.

This, on paper, may not seem to be missing, though reality is in stark contrast to hearsay.

While I am not under rating the present-day teachers vis-à-vis those of yore, it would take more effort and commitment, to be followed as a Role Model because the impact has to be felt amidst challenges, most of which were absent then or were of a different manageable nature.

It is possible and would lead to a better society driven by values and positivity.

While at school and at home, we have all heard of the adage, “Where there is a will, there is a way”.

For those who put this across to children, making it a reality wouldn’t be a tough ask if backed by systematic action.

May we have more of them.

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EP SPECIALS

Perseverance Rover: It’s Mission Objective, Scientific Gear and Lifesource

This mission is truly a bridge between humanity’s aspirations and culmination of a long awaited dream to place the first humans on another world

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The Perseverance mission (officially known in NASA as Mars 2020) is the latest since the Curiosity rover that landed at the Gale Crater on Mars in 2013. The Perseverance rover is in a sense, an extension of Curiosity, but it’s to probe specific questions about Mars – to examine organic content on Mars to see if ancient microbial life possibly existed, to understand the climate on Mars and determine if hospitable conditions did exist in the past, and to demonstrate the artificial synthesis of oxygen using the
atmospheric carbon dioxide on Mars.

The mission got traction in India after, Dr. Swati Mohan, who was the most visible face at the Mission Control at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) at Pasadena, California, shared updates about the rover’s entry, descent and landing on Mars with the rest of her team and the world. The whole landing phase of the mission was viewed by at least 21 million people on YouTube and many more on their television sets. Her Indian ancestry, bought her media attention, appearing on interviews with national television
channels. She was the Guidance and Controls Operations Lead of the Perseverance mission.

The Perseverance rover weighs about 1025 kilograms and is the heaviest ever sent to Mars, with its size comparable to a Tesla Model X

Her role was to ensure the rover was properly oriented prior to the beginning of the entry, descent and landing stage of the mission. JPL, where she works, is the technology arm of NASA and is in charge of the
creation of rockets and robots including the Mars rovers, and played a key role during the Apollo missions. On 30 th July, 2020, amidst the rampaging COVID pandemic, the Atlas V rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida hurtling into space for over 201 days. On 18 th February 2021, after an intense entry and descent phase, Perseverance landing was recorded and broadcasted by NASA to the rest of the world.

Tracks from the rover’s first drive (darker marks in the foreground) and an area scoured by the Mars 2020 mission’s descent stage rockets (lighter-colored area in the middle ground). Courtesy: mars.nasa.gov/

SOME FACTS ON PERSEVERANCE:

The Perseverance rover weighs about 1025 kilograms and is the heaviest ever sent to Mars, with its size comparable to a Tesla Model X. The rover’s top speed is about 0.014 kmph with the rover covering about 100 meters per day. That’s miniscule for a robot, but the whole point is that the rover is not a car in anyways. Unlike a car, the rover uses a radioactive source to power its instruments on board and drive its wheels. The rover wasn’t built to drive long distances. It’s supposed to perform scientific analysis on its environment, including its surface and atmosphere.

SCIENTIFIC EQUIPMENT AND SYNTHESIZING OXYGEN ON THE SURFACE

Perseverance has over seven instruments – SHERLOC, MOXIE, PIXL, RIMFAX, Mastcam-Z, SuperCam and MEDA. The Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (abbreviated MOXIE) will test oxygen production capabilities on Mars, functioning like a tree – breathing in the carbon dioxide (that comprises over 96% of the Martian atmosphere) and breathe out oxygen (which is just 0.13% on Mars without artificial production). This
instrument can reduce the logistics for future humans by having them not carry a liquid oxygen propellant with them.

The MOXIE device will create oxygen gas from carbon dioxide, producing carbon monoxide as a by-product. Later this oxygen is tested for purity and then released into the Martian atmosphere.

Other instruments on board include the SuperCam, that performs imaging and analysis of the chemical composition of the soil, and looks for organic matter from a distance. The Radar Imager for Mars’ Subsurface Experiment (RIMFAX) is a ground penetration radar that will help model the structure just below the surface. The Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) will help to detect chemical elements on the surface using an x-ray spectrometer.

The MOXIE device will create oxygen gas from carbon dioxide, producing carbon monoxide as a by-product. Later this oxygen is tested for purity and then released into the Martian atmosphere

Mars Environmental Dynamics Analyzer (MEDA) will measure the temperature, pressure, wind speed, relative humidity and size and shape of the dust particles. The MastCam provides panoramic images of Mars. Perseverance’s most prominent feature perhaps is its extendable robotic arm, at the end of which is the “turret” that can drill into rock samples and consists of a few of the mentioned scientific instruments to perform analysis, similar to how a geologist would perform their duties on earth.

PERSEVERANCE’S HEART AND LIFE SOURCE

Perseverance rover draws its power from the MMRTG, unlike its predecessors like Spirit and Opportunity that relied on solar energy. An MMRTG, abbreviation for the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, utilizes radiation from nuclear decay of a plutonium-238 sample weighting 4.5 kilograms. A thermocouple will then set up a temperature-dependent voltage from this radiation to run the electronics aboard. The MMRTG provides a peak power of 110 W but then this power supply will
decrease steadily due to nuclear decay. However, the plutonium sample will last long enough and function adequately past its designed mission life span. The rover has two extra rechargeable lithium ion batteries to perform activities that require further power.

INGENUITY – A LATEST INNOVATION, AND FIRST OF CONTROLLED FLIGHT ON MARS

It’s an impressive engineering marvel that requires some talent, dedication and smart work went into this project since being announced in December 2012, at the American Geophysical Union. It isn’t just the rover that has gone in as part of project Mars 2020, but a small helicopter aboard Perseverance. The helicopter will serve as a technology demonstration for future airborne missions on Mars. The helicopter, aptly named Ingenuity, will commence flight test in April 2021. The helicopter will hover for
90 seconds and then recharge with its onboard solar panels. This will be the first time that controlled flight has ever been performed on another planetary body, that too with an extremely thin atmosphere
(having a pressure of only 0.095 psi, compared to earth’s pressure at sea level of about 14 psi). It has taken true ingenuity for the engineers to build this machine.

WHAT’S THE FUTURE AND WHAT’S EXPECTED OUT OF MARS 2020

This mission is truly a bridge between humanity’s aspirations and culmination of a long awaited dream to place the first humans on another world. Scientists and engineers will need all the data they want,
because although Mars may be a dead planet, it had an interesting history. Scientists are positive about the existence of flowing liquid water on the surface billions of years ago, and even had a stable atmosphere. But we just don’t know how it all went, and why it went. These fundamental questions
become relevant to us as humans to identify the necessary conditions needed to harbor life on other planets other than our own.

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EP SPECIALS

3 kinds of capital for Lifelong learning

We need to take this holistic approach to learning throughout life. Let me explain and break this down for you into 3 kinds of capital:

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As you can see, lifelong learning does not only mean learning a particular skill or subject. It takes into learning to earn a living as well as learning to become a better human being. It takes into account the professional, the social and the personal. We need to take this holistic approach to learning throughout life. Let me explain and break this down for you into 3 kinds of capital:

Human capital – this refers to the skills and qualifications held by you. It is built up mainly through formal education and training, but informal learning also plays an important part. You typically deploy your human capital in the workplace as a factor of production, but you also put it to use in social and community contexts.

Social capital – refers to the value or benefits you derive from participation in networks; basically, your “connections”. Your networks and connections may be local (including family) or global. You should always remember that social capital (your networks and connections) supports learning and is in turn strengthened by it.

Although social capital is not acquired directly through education in the same way as skills and qualifications are, constantly learning new things is a powerful way of increasing and broadening your networks and connections.

Personal capital – is your ability to maintain healthy self-esteem, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life. You should be able to deepen your self-knowledge and reinforce your self-image because this is really the basis for developing any other kind of competency.

When you decide to learn throughout life, your efforts should bring about an increase in these three types of capital. What I wanted to stress here is that, if you are looking to understand how to improve your career or how to navigate your career or even how to lead a meaningful life, it is not enough to just add random certifications after certifications to put in your CV. It is not enough to simply accumulate qualifications one after another. What is needed is for you to develop a learning mindset; develop a willingness to learn throughout life through formal and informal ways.

You have to become open to constantly trying new things and keep experimenting with your life. “Settling down” is an old concept that has no relevance in the 21st century innovation world. If you plan to “settle down” then you are planning to get left behind, you are planning to lose. Our world now moves more faster than it ever has in the past and this movement throws up challenges as well as opportunities. If you want to solve the challenges and capture those opportunities, you have to keep learning.

If you don’t the world will leave you behind and you will not achieve your full potential. There is no choice. Well actually there is always a choice. You can choose to lead yourself into new and emerging opportunities and grow yourself. Or you can choose to be left behind and be fossilized. It’s up to you.

Activity: think about the 10 points I mentioned before and the current status of your human capital (what have you formally learned so far in life and what qualifications do you currently have that is useful for employers?), your social capital (how does your network and connections look? Have you developed a good network?) and your personal capital (have you spent time and taken effort to know more about yourself?). Answer these questions honestly and keep a journal of your thoughts.

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