Politics & the Nation
  • On rethinking education:
    • Sudhakar Ram is CMD of Mastek, a software company. He has some sane ideas on revitalizing education in our country. We strongly recommend a read of this article.
    • Before we excerpt the suggestions, some excerpts that we found are worthy of our record:
    • Howard Gardner’s Project Zero at Harvard discovered that up to age four, almost all children are at genius level, in terms of the multiple frames of intelligence — spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, mathematical, intrapersonal, and linguistic. But by age 20, the genius level proportion of the tested population dropped to 2%. We are educating the intelligence out of our children. Instead, we need to nurture and develop the multiple frames of intelligence within our schools and colleges. We need to fuel imagination, which Einstein said is more important than knowledge.
    • The current system of education — both at the school and university level — assumes that a finite amount of ‘knowledge’ is available. The emphasis is on cramming as much of this knowledge as possible into the available years of education. But this paradigm does not work for the 21st century; the quantum of knowledge has become so vast that it would take several lifetimes even to master a single discipline. What we need is children learning how to learn and provide facilities for life-long, just-in-time learning.
    • Everyday people tend to think we don’t have the ability — or even the right — to understand, let alone challenge, the specialists. In this quest for ‘know-how’ we are losing the ‘know-what’ — the meaning and purpose of life, the context for applying all this knowledge.
    • Of the 200+ million children of school going age, 35% drop out after primary school and another 50% after upper primary. Of the 20 million youth of graduating age, only around three million actually make it through college, and less than 500,000 are deemed employable.
    • So, how should we rethink education?
      • First, we need to nurture love for learning in primary schools.
      • Second, the focus of upper primary schools should be (a) to teach kids how to learn and (b) to support them discover their natural aptitude.
      • Third, high school curricula should focus more on building concrete skills and capabilities in multiple disciplines, rather than stressing exam results.
      • Fourth, universities of the future should offer life-long learning modules that allow people to acquire knowledge just when they need it.
  • Is it time for a second SRC?
    • Take a look at this lively and timely debate. Some excerpts worth our attention:
    • If size was a determinant of governance, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand — both states created in 2000 — should not have had such disappointing records. Those who fought for their statehood, and for local non-exploitative control over their natural resources, have been completely marginalised, as the idealism of the new experiment has been overtaken by the jaded practices of politics-as-usual.
    • ...empirical evidence is unambiguous: size is irrelevant to the quality of governance and development.
    • The new claims being heard today have much less substance. They are propelled by the same impulse to splinter that characterises our political parties. Sections of the political class that are unable to make a convincing play to capture power in an entire state will seek such forms of minor secession that provide them with smaller, more easily controllable pocketboroughs. Just as large political parties tend to spawn smaller parties — unsurprisingly organised as family firms — so also large states are seen as fair game for building smaller fiefdoms.
Finance & Economy
  • Ad campaign that left Häagen-Dazs red-faced
    • We have noticed sometime back that Häagen-Dazs (It is a brand of ice cream, established by Polish immigrants Reuben and Rose Mattus in the Bronx, New York, in 1961) is making a foray into India. It is an internationally very well nown premium brand ice-cream.
    • In its ad campaign (which was handled by TBWA) the choice of wrong words led to a marketing nightmare for the company. Look at what happened:
    • A day before the US brand opened its first outlet in a south Delhi mall, it put up signboards around the area for a “preview for international travellers” with the telling rider, ‘Entry restricted only to holders of international passports’.
    • An Indian who saw the sign and was turned away from the store — only because of lack of space due to weekend rush, according to Häagen-Dazs — took a photograph. He e-mailed it to a Times of India blogger; within minutes it had gone around the globe, inciting a hail of protests that left the company red-faced.
    • “An error was made in the creative execution,” Anindo Mukherji, MD of General Mills India, which markets the brand here, told ET, adding more precisely: “It was a wrong choice of words, and we regret the error.”
    • But the words of the teaser campaign left the company vulnerable to the charge of apartheid.
    • It emerged that what Häagen-Dazs really wanted to convey was ‘Now get a taste of abroad right here in India’.
  • Come Friday stock exchanges will function from 9.00 AM
    • Both BSE and NSE announced that they will be functioning from 9.00 AM from Friday.
    • The move has not left many market participants enthused.
    • The original advocates of early market hours were those who felt that foreign fund managers used the shallow Singapore market to hammer the Nifty by short-selling Nifty futures there. However, this problem may still persist, as Singapore will open well ahead of the Indian market, despite the advanced timings.
    • What do early openings mean for different stakeholder?
      • Arranging for margin funds so early could be a tough task, as banks are unlikely to open that early. Market players say other related systems should be put in place before advancing the trade timings
      • Despite advancing the timings, arbitrage deals between Singapore and India will continue since the overseas exchange will still have a lead time
      • Life will be demanding for traders, particularly those in small broking houses and staying in distant suburbs
  • Cheque may be history; sooner than we can predict
    • After more than three centuries, the humble cheque is set to become a historic relic after British banks voted to phase it out in favour of more modern payment methods. The board of the UK Payments Council, the body for setting payment strategy in Britain, agreed on Wednesday to set a target date of October 31, 2018 for winding up the cheque clearing system. The board is largely made up of Britain’s leading banks.
    • Last year, around 3.8 million cheques were written every day in Britain, compared to a peak of 10.9 million in 1990, the council said. It costs about one pound to process every cheque.
    • The oldest surviving cheque in Britain was written in 1659, according to the council and made out for 400 pounds (equivalent to around 42,000 pounds today). It was signed by Nicholas Vanacker, made payable to a Mr Delboe and drawn on Messrs Morris and Clayton, scriveners and bankers of the City of London. In those days, cheques would have been exchanged informally in coffee houses. It was not until 1833 that the first clearing house was built in London to exchange cheques.
  • Bombay High Court throws a spanner in the works for foreign law firms
    • The Bombay High Court ruled that foreign law firms cannot carry on non-litigious practice in India, which includes drafting of applications, consultancy work or any legal work that does not involve appearing before the courts, unless they abide by the Advocates Act, which governs the conduct of Indian lawyers. The two-judge bench said that a decision by the Reserve Bank of India allowing foreign law firms to open liaison offices was not justified.
    • The ruling means that foreign law firms can function in India only if all the advocates in their offices are enrolled with the bar councils of Indian states or with the Delhi based Bar Council of India, the apex regulatory body for lawyers. Lawyers possessing a degree from international law schools, which are recognised by the Bar Council of India, can also practice, provided they register themselves.
    • International firms Ashurst, Chadbourne & Parke and White & Case had opened liaison offices in India after Reserve Bank of India granted them permission under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act or FEMA, with the condition that these firms would not earn any income in India. Lawyers Collective had challenged the permission granted by RBI to the foreign firms.
    • Under India’s Advocates Act, which was enacted in 1961, only an “advocate” can practise the “profession of law”, an advocate being a person with a law degree and enrolled with state bar councils or the Bar Council of India.
  • Sportspersons' expensive divorces
    • The escapades Tiger Woods had with various women are tumbling out of the locker without a break. For the sake of staying away from somebody's personal life, we maintained a stoic silence in our blog about the issue so far. But not any more.
    • If he were to divorce his wife, it is reported, that he would have to shell something like $300 mn to his wife Elin Nordegren.
    • For the record, Tiger’s pal, basketball legend Michael Jordan holds the current record of most expensive divorce in all sports, having reportedly paid over $US150 million to his former wife, Juanita.
    • The record for ‘most expensive’ divorce among golfers is held by the Shark, Greg Norman. His ex-wife Laura Andrassy was said to have accepted a reported sum in the region of US $ 102 million plus some estate in the form of a luxury house or two, when he parted ways with her.
Language Lessons
  • wonky: Adjective
    • Turned or twisted toward one side; Inclined to shake as from weakness or defect
    • eg: The resultant differential taxation can lead to inefficient production and lower output; and differential tax rates on final goods and services would affect consumption patterns, and send wonky price signals.

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