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Pandemic has regressed student learning, Anganwadis can help: Dr Karthik Muralidharan at CII Global Economic Policy Summit
Nov 18, 2021

Dr Karthik Muralidharan, Tata Chancellor's Professor of Economics, University of California, San Diego stated that the pandemic has been especially difficult for children. “The trade-off between the costs of shutting schools and the potential benefits of reduced infection is very different for different socio-economic students,” he stated. He was speaking at the session on ‘Reimagining growth and inclusion in India: Ideas for school education and social protection’ at the first CII Global Economic Policy Summit on 17-18 November 2021.

He added that for children with educated parents and easy access to smart devices, the loss of education was not significant. However, for children out of school for over 18 months, these effects have been certainly devastating. According to various studies, over 85% children particularly those in rural schools have lost learning levels. To tackle such challenges, Dr Muralidharan suggested the strengthening of the Anganwadi system by adding an extra worker. “A recent study found that an extra helper leads to dramatic changes in learning outcomes and reduction in child malnutrition.”

Mr Kris Gopalakrishnan, Past President CII, Co-founder, Infosys & Chairman, Axilor Ventures Pvt. Ltd. noted that as nations across the globe rebuild their economies in this post pandemic era, it is essential to also concentrate on accelerating education and social protection. Almost 90% of the workforce belongs to the unorganised sector, which has been hit the hardest by the pandemic and the society as a whole should work towards securing their position.

According to Dr Muralidharan, the Indian welfare system includes two major components, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), which is 0.5 per cent of India’s GDP and the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS), which is 1 per cent of India’s GDP. The social protection architecture can be enhanced by adding a third pillar, which is a universal supplemental income transform pegged at 1% of GDP.

This inclusive growth dividend is progressive, inclusive, and aims to sustain poverty reduction. Not only shall it boost savings but will also increase credit and improves livelihoods. This third pillar would support to SMEs and create employment opportunities, also empowering the female population. Dr Muralidharan said, “When you have a well-designed and well implemented social protection plan you can improve both equity and efficiency.”

Dr Muralidharan outlined an 11-point agenda for the future of the social protection system in India and reiterated that the force multiplier impact goes beyond the fiscal expenditure. Quoting studies regarding MNREGA, he stated that its benefits were seen not only in expanding the welfare of beneficiaries but also helped push the wage structure upwards, leading to overall growth in incomes. It also helped increase non-agricultural output and employment.

18 November 2021

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