Indian students likely to return to Australia soon, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan raise the issue with his Australian counterpart. (Image: Dharmendra Pradhan Twitter (dpradhanbjp))

On Tuesday, the Union Education Minister, Dharmendra Pradhan, met with his Australian counterpart, Alan Tudge. During his meeting, he raised the issue of the return of almost 17000 Indian students who have not been able to join their universities post the ban on students holding temporary visas.

Both the ministers " emphasised both countries' commitment to supporting India-bound students at every stage." The Australian minister also briefed Pradhan on the steps being taken by the Australian government to ease the return of Indian students.

In a tweet, Pradhan wrote "HE @AlanTudgeMP also elaborated on Australia's preparation, including a students arrival pilot for the return of International and Indian students to Australia. Both India and Australia are committed to supporting Australia-bound Indian students at every stage."

Earlier, Australia had eased travel restrictions and allowed international travel. Australia has also recognised India's manufactured Covishield vaccine for entry into the country. It is expected that students will be allowed to return soon.

The education minister also tweeted about the National Education Policy, "India's National Education Policy, 2020 will be instrumental in channelising the aspirations & future needs of our youth and in making India more relevant in the global arena. The education and skills spectrum has a significant potential for further cooperation between India & Australia."

(With ANI inputs)

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's school closures and its children's lack of smartphone and internet facilities amidst the COVID-19 pandemic have worsened an educational divide, the U.N. cultural agency said, flagging risks to young people's futures.

About 248 million students were hit by school closures since March last year, UNESCO said in a report, though many Indian states have started easing curbs as infections dwindled and vaccinations rose in the last two months.

Nearly 70% of students lacked smartphones or other devices to access classes online, while a majority grappled with poor Internet facilities, or none, especially in rural areas, it added.

"There is an urgent need to plan to get students and their teachers back to school," the agency said in its report on education in India issued on Tuesday.

Almost 40% of parents could not afford internet costs, affecting learning, and so widening the educational gap between different parts of society, it said in the report, based on government data.

Widespread economic distress and job losses as people fled home to villages in the countryside have pushed families into poverty, worsening distress for children from such woes as malnutrition and early marriages for girls, the agency said.

Worst-hit were private schools that receive no government grants, but where many poor families aspiring for a better education send their children, as parents found themselves unable to pay fees after the reduced economic activity.

India's economy contracted an annual 7.3% in the fiscal year that ended in March 2021, in the worst recession since independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1947.

Salary cuts or job losses faced teachers in the private schools employing nearly 30% of India's total of 9.7 million, as many students were withdrawn or shifted to schools subsidised by the government.

UNESCO called for India to recognise teachers as "frontline workers" in the battle on the pandemic, and improve working conditions for them to ensure better outcomes in education.

"Quality of education is the core challenge of the next decade," it said.

(Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)


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