Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 28 August 2023

Revised National Curriculum Framework (NCF)

GS Paper - 2 (Education)

The revised National Curriculum Framework (NCF) released makes the study of Indian languages an integral part of school education, and allows students the freedom to choose from a range of subjects across streams. This is in line with the vision of the National Education Policy 2020 to promote teaching and learning in Indian languages, and make greater interdisciplinarity possible in school education.

Some key proposals

  • Like the draft, the revised NCF divides school education into four stages: Foundational (preschool to grade 2)Preparatory (grades 2 to 5)Middle (grades 6 to 8), and Secondary (grades 9 to 12).
  • It recommends the teaching of two languages till the middle stage, supplemented by a third language from the middle stage to class 10. Two out of these three languages must be “native to India”.
  • In the middle stage, students are expected to study, apart from the languages, mathematicsart educationphysical educationsciencesocial science, and a subject of vocational education. A subject of environmental education will be added in grades 9 and 10.
  • The framework allots specific times and weights to all subjects till grade 10, and recommends an optional “Additional Enrichment Period” in grades 9 and 10 to add to a student’s knowledge in any subject.
  • It also lists the competencies to be achieved by students in different subjects and stages.
  • For example, a social science is to be thematically organised in the middle stage — from knowing the “local to the global”. For the three languages, it aims for students to develop “effective communicationdiscussion, and writing skills”.
  • In grades 11 and 12, it is mandatory to study two languages, one of which must be Indian.
  • In this phase, students have the freedom to choose the remaining four or five subjects from different streams — commercescienceshumanities — leaving ample room for interdisciplinarity. A student may pick English and Sanskrit as her languages for example, and study historyjournalismmathematics, and gardening alongside.
  • The framework recommends twice-a-year Board examinations in grades 10 and 12, with the best score retained. While the annual system will continue in grade 12 for now, the framework suggests a gradual transition to a semester system in the secondary stage, which will also allow students to take Board examinations immediately after a semester is completed. The NCF suggests the creation of a “comprehensive test item bank” for this.

The two versions

  • While the revised NCF recommends the study of three languages, including two Indian languages, up to class 10, the draft document had recommended the teaching of three languages (called R1, R2, and R3) in classes 6, 7, and 8, and two languages in classes 9 and 10 (R1 and R2).
  • R1 would be the mother tongue or home language, R2 could be any other language (including English), and R3 was any language that wasn’t R1 or R2.
  • State governments and school boards were granted the freedom to decide the classification of R1, R2, and R3. Also, in the draft NCF, language was an optional discipline in grades 11 and 12.
  • The changes in the draft, including on the Indian languages, were incorporated following feedback from 4,000 organisations.
  • The revised draft favoured staying with the annual system for now after states expressed reservations about transitioning to a semester system too soon.


  • The NCF provides the framework for the development of textbooks for different subjects. The NCERT has set up a 19-member committee to prepare textbooks and supplementary materials in line with the NCF for grades 3 to 12. It will be assisted by groups of experts in respective subjects.
  • The new textbooks are expected to be introduced in the 2024-25 academic session, the Ministry of Education had said earlier this year. The textbooks currently in circulation were prepared using the NCF 2005. Neither the NEPnor the NCF are binding on the states.
  • The 640-page NCF, an update on the draft released in April, was developed by a 13-member steering committee led by former ISRO chief K Kasturirangan.


Indore named best city in Smart Cities Mission

GS Paper - 2 (Infrastructure)

The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry named Indore the best city and Madhya Pradesh the best state in the Smart Cities Mission in its India Smart Cities Awards 2022. Surat and Agra were named second and third best among cities and Tamil Nadu second in states, with the third prize being shared by Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. A total of 66 winners in different categories were announced; the awards would be presented by President Droupadi Murmu at a ceremony in Indore on 27 September 2023.

More about the News

  • The cities were selected based on their ranking in terms of progress of projectsproject outcomes and presentations submitted for the awards.
  • Indore has topped the cleanliness rankings under the Swachh Bharat Mission, being named the cleanest city for the past six years in a row.
  • Madhya Pradesh, too, won the tag of the cleanest state in the Swachh Survekshan 2022. In the Smart Cities awardsIndore had shared the first place with Surat last time.
  • In the Smart Cities Awards 2022, Coimbatore’s project of model roadsrestoration and renovation of lakes was ranked the best in the category of built environment, while Jabalpur won the award for its incubation centre in the economy category.
  • Chandigarh’s public bike sharing and e-governance services won in the mobility and governance categories, respectively. Chandigarh also won the overall award in the Union Territory category.


  • Under the Smart Cities Mission, which was launched in 2015, the 100 selected cities have completed 76% of the proposed projects worth Rs.1.10 lakh crore, while the remaining projects worth Rs.60,095 crore “will be completed by 30 June 2024, a ministry statement said.
  • Earlier this year, the mission’s deadline was extended from June 30 to next year to allow all 100 cities to complete their projects.
  • Most notable milestone achieved in the mission has been the Integrated Command and Control Centers (ICCC), which is operational in all 100 Smart Cities.
  • These ICCCs work as the brain and nervous system for city operations, using technology for urban management.
  • The urban services have significantly improved in diverse fields like crime tracking, safety and security of citizens, transport management, solid waste management, water supply, disaster management etc.


Dengue vaccines in India

GS Paper - 3 (Health and Diseases)

With the expanding geography of dengue infections — in India as well as the world — an increasing need has been felt for an effective vaccine that can protect against all four serotypes. Nearly half the population of the world lives at risk of the disease at present. The disease in India has spread from just eight states and union territories in 2001 to all states by 2022 — Ladakh was the last bastion from where two infections were reported last year. There have been 31,464 cases and 36 deaths due to dengue reported across the country till the end of July this year, as per the latest available data.

Vaccine in human trials

  • There are several efforts ongoing within the country to develop an effective vaccine against the mosquito-borne disease that can lead to internal bleedingcirculatory shock, and death.
  • At present, there are three vaccine candidates that are being tested in humans in India.
  • First, a vaccine developed by Panacea Biotec based on live weakened versions of the four dengue serotypes developed by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the United States.
  • The US laboratory developed weakened versions of all four dengue virus serotypes — they deleted parts of the genetic code of DENV1DENV3, and DENV4 serotypes of the virus to do so and then genetically engineered DENV2 backbone using parts from weakened DENV 4 on which the others were tacked on. These were grown in cell culture by Panacea Biotec to develop the vaccine.
  • second vaccine candidate was developed by the Serum Institute of India with the same weakened virus from the United States.
  • A phase I trial with 60 healthy adults of 18 to 45 years has already been completed, showing the vaccine to be safe and well tolerated.
  • After phase 2, the company with ICMR will conduct a large-scale study with the help of ICMR in children between the ages of 2 to 18 years.
  • The same technology has also been used by Indian Immunologicals Limited to develop a vaccine that has started the phase I clinical trial in 90 persons between the ages of 18 and 50 years.

Vaccines in the early stages of development

  • There are at least two indigenous vaccines against dengue under development in research institutes. Both have used similar ideas to come up with different types of vaccines.
  • One of the main challenges of developing a dengue vaccine is antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) — a person with low levels of antibodies against one serotype of dengue, may end up getting a more severe infection with another serotype of dengue.
  • To do away with this problem, both the Indian research teams selected a specific part of the envelop protein known to not cause ADE.
  • The team from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) created a Virus-Like Particle using these parts of the virus.
  • The vaccines were shown to offer almost 100% protection against all four serotypes. This has been tested in mice and monkeys but is yet to be tested in humans. The vaccine was developed in collaboration with Sun Pharmaceuticals.
  • The other team from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology among other institutes again used the same envelope parts of the four dengue virus along with another part called non-structural-1 and constructed a genetic sequence out of it.
  • This resulted in a DNA vaccine with all four serotypes. Although DNA vaccines can be manufactured at lower safety levels, at a lesser cost, and can be stored even at room temperatures, they don’t always produce a very good immune response.
  • This is the reason most DNA vaccine candidates failed until the success of the Zydus COVID-19 vaccine. The researchers are currently optimising the vaccine using nano-plasmids. The vaccine candidate has already been tested on mice.

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