News & Events
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1.Twitter’s in-house data reveals the extent of editorial judgement exercised
The continuing validity of the safe harbour legal provisions that provide a legal shield to Twitter is not entirely clear. Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is both law and communications minister, addressed this question yesterday over social media.
What is clear is that Twitter has not complied with GoI’s Intermediary Guidelines that came into effect last month, in a manner that satisfies the government. However, the minister’s social media post does not unambiguously clarify the matter.
The safe harbour provisions are a legacy of the regulatory framework introduced in the US in the mid-1990s to encourage tech companies during the Internet’s nascent phase. They have had an adverse impact on mainstream media which functions under a different and more stringent set of regulations.
Data put out by Twitter is enough to show that it is not a neutral arbiter. There is an editorial decision-making aspect to it. To illustrate, Twitter’s annual transparency report shows that between January 2012 and June 2020 there were 5,464 legal demands to take down India-related tweets. These demands include court orders, requests from governments and lawyers. Twitter’s compliance rate during this period was 18.8%, indicating that editorial judgement was exercised in responding to legal demands. This data shows that social media platforms are not the neutral arbiters they profess to be. The basis of the safe harbour legal provisions is that they exercise no editorial judgement.
2.Resident Indians: Emigration may be going up. That’s not a problem. The problem is lack of investment in people here
Indians have always lamented their ‘weak’ passport, now rated less powerful than 83 others. The ‘red list’ travel bans that have gone up since the Covid second wave worsen the feeling. Countries like the US and UK have opened special windows for students though, with some well-heeled parents leaving no stone unturned to drop off their children on campus. Coming on top of reports and anecdotal evidence of an exodus of high net-worth individuals, and murmurs about everyone who can afford it preparing to send their child abroad, this has made ‘brain drain’ dinner table conversation once again.
Should India worry? No. The first big post-Independence wave of educated and/or well off Indians emigrating started in 1960s. India’s economic troubles began in late 1960s and carried on through the next decade and beyond, culminating in the crisis of early 1990s. But that happened because of Indian ‘socialism’, not because talented Indians left. An economic paradigm shift, with incomes rising and opportunities expanding, happened only because of policy reforms. Those reforms are also why even Covid-battered India is one of the most attractive destinations for foreign investment. Note that all through the post-reforms era, Indians continued to move abroad.
If there’s indeed a marked rise in Indians leaving the country, such an exodus is again unlikely to make a difference to India’s fortunes. What will make a difference is how GoI and states respond to the pandemic-induced economic downturn and when and how necessary structural reforms happen. Even if every Indian who can emigrate stays back, it’s policy and the politics of policy that will determine whether, over the next few years, India can shake off the tag of being a low-income country.
We have enough people to invest in. It’s the investment that’s lacking. Shockingly, there are still too few institutions of excellence and of professional studies, getting into ‘good’ Indian colleges is often harder than getting into US universities. No country has gone up the wealth ladder without widespread availability of both good public education and regular, skilled employment. Brain drain is not our problem, brain waste is.
And on Indians emigrating, let’s not forget that the Indian diaspora acts as a soft power multiplier for the country, as well as a network through which both ideas and investment arrive here. We must demand that the state serve its citizens, and not censure those who emigrate by saying citizens must serve the state.
3.Welcome CBSE’s new evaluation plan
The board’s alternative assessment model will end uncertainty for students.The change in the evaluation system this year may have been a product of unfortunate circumstances, but it should be used as the basis to undertake a comprehensive review of the evaluation model, especially for those leaving school.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), on Thursday, submitted to the Supreme Court (SC) its evaluation criteria for awarding marks to Class 12 students, after the cancellation of the board exams. According to the formula, the results will be decided on the basis of a student’s performance in classes 10 and 11 (each will have 30% weightage) and Class 12, which will have 40% weightage. For classes 10 and 11, marks in the best of three from five papers in term exams will be considered. For Class 12, marks obtained in unit, term and practical examinations will be taken into account. To put all Class 12 students on par, there may be a moderation committee to look into the difference in the marking mechanism adopted by schools. The results will be declared by July 31.
CBSE’s evaluation plan must be welcomed. It may not make all stakeholders and sectoral experts happy — but the perfect cannot be an enemy of good in these times. Holding the board exam would have been a grave public health risk. And so an alternative model was needed, and examining a student’s performance over three years is a good indicator of academic skills. Most importantly, the evaluation formula ends the uncertainty that students have been grappling with for 15 months now, and will allow them to move on. The framework, which can be tweaked and revised if necessary, should now be operationalised.
There is, however, a valuable lesson in the coronavirus pandemic-sparked disruption for the government, school boards and education sector. It is time to undertake long-pending structural reforms in assessment methods. Judging the learning abilities, knowledge base, interests and skills of students on the basis of one exam, and then making that the basis to determine their future, has flaws. Educational panels over the years have pointed to the error in reducing education to rote-learning and reproduction of sterile textbook-based information. This has come at the cost of assessing critical analytical abilities and a student’s understanding of a subject, and ignores heterogeneity among students. The change in the evaluation system may have been a product of unfortunate circumstances, but it should be used as the basis to undertake a review of the evaluation model, especially for those leaving school.