Stock markets have retreated again over worries of further US interest rate rises after the Federal Reserve defied Donald Trump to increase rates for the fourth time this year.

The EU has confirmed it is “actively investigating” a potential breach of its diplomatic communications network, following reports that secret cables had been stolen by hackers.

The Bank of England has welcomed a “crucial and positive” move by the EU to help keep a key part of the financial system functioning in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit.

A handful of banks will be forced to write multimillion pound cheques to buy shares in the construction giant Kier Group after some of its biggest investors snubbed the chance to take part in a £250m fundraising.

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Santander has been fined more than £30m for “serious failings” in processing the accounts of dead customers, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) says.


ASER report identifies India’s declining education productivity


According to the report, rural children aren’t displaying the expected level of learning skills, and there is higher education inequality and deficiencies in availability of basic school facilities across the states

Productivity in education was reported to have declined about 18% between 2008 and 2018, according the latest Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). The countrywide survey found that while overall enrollment in the 6-14 age group is at over 96%, one out of four children in class VIII did not possess basic reading skills. More than 50% of them could not solve basic math.

Compared with the previous ASER reports, the results in the latest one are worrying as large sections of children are lacking basic skills. Sample this: in 2008, while 84.4% class VIII children were able to read at least class II text books, the number has significantly fallen down to 72.8% in 2018.

Among the improvements, the proportion of out-of-school children in different age groups has kept falling. In 2018, the school dropout children between 15-16 age group is 13.5% among girls and 12.6% among boys. The numbers are 4.1% among girls and 3.3% among boys in the 11-14 age group.

At the all-India level, the number of class V children in government schools who could read class II level text declined about 8.9% in the last 10 years from 53.1% in 2008, to 44.2% in 2018. Similar was the case of children studying in private schools. In 2008, 68% class V children could read a Class II level text. This went down to 61% in 2012 and then up to 65% in 2018.

The 2018 education survey reached 596 districts in rural India, surveying a total of 354,944 households and 546,527 children in the age group 3 to 16. The survey covered 15,998 government schools including 9,177 primary schools and 6,821 upper primary schools. The survey was conducted by NGO Pratham.

There has been no improvement in the number of schools where the crucial facility Midday meal scheme is functional. As you can see in the above table, the percentage of schools implementing midday meal scheme remained at 87.1% for the last two years. Even the number of schools with drinking water facility has plateaued over years. The number of schools with drinking water availability was 72.7% in 2010, it increased to 74% in 2014 and stood at 74.8% in 2018.

While the percentage of schools with separate girls toilet (available and usable) has increased by 22.8% from 32.9% in 2010 to 55.7% in 2014, the percentage has fallen down to 10.7% from 2014 to 2018 (66.4%).

The survey also revealed that the computer education to the rural children is meagerly available. In 2010, in 8.6% of schools, children were using computer, the number has fallen down to 7% in 2014 and further declined to 6.5% in 2018.

Across states, deficiencies in school facilities are particularly marked in Jammu and Kashmir and the north-eastern states except Assam. In these states, less than 50% of schools had provision for drinking water or girls’ toilets available in 2018.

Majority of schools in these states did not have library books available for students. While elsewhere in the country the mid-day meal was served on the day of the visit in well over 80% of schools, this proportion was less than 50% in many states in this region.

Higher education inequality persists across states. For example, while over 75% of class V students in Kerala can read class II text, significantly higher than all India average (51%), in Jharkhand only 34% were able to do it.

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