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Expanding access to education

In order to meet the challenges of access and equity to higher education, academic institutions and the government were looking for an alternative system of education. These segments include disadvantaged groups such as those living in remote areas including working people, housewives and other adults who wish to upgrade or acquire knowledge.

Expanding access to education

Distance learning began in India to bring education to those who could not afford to attend regular classes. Notwithstanding the changing terminology, distance learning is learning through technical media (printed material, audio material, video material, digital material) when there is a separation or distance between the teacher and the learner.

Distance learning systems in India can be divided into the following types: 1. Open Universities set up to offer only distance education programmes.  2. Dual Mode Universities, which offer campus-based programmes as well as distance learning programmes. These dual mode universities serve the educational needs of more than 1.5 million students in India. The total enrollments in distance education in the dual mode universities are much larger than enrollment in the open universities.

Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system is one where teachers and learners need not necessarily be present either at the same place or the same time.  ODL in India consists of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU),  13 State Open Universities (SOUs), established by respective state legislatures and regular universities offering correspondence courses institutes.  

 

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU)

IGNOU has the dual responsibilities of (i) enhancing access and equity to higher education through distance mode and (ii) promoting, coordinating and determining standards in ODL. The university offers degree, diploma and certificate programmes related to the needs of employers as necessary for building the economy of the country. 

Educational development of North-East Region (NER) is another focus area and 10 per cent of the Annual Plan Budget used to be earmarked for the development of this region. The university has established 8 Regional Centres in the North-East Region. 

 

State Open Universities (SOUs)

There are at present 13 State Open Universities set up by the respective state governments,  providing education only in the distance mode. These universities cater to people who are unable to pursue regular courses due to various reasons. These universities are also instrumental in shaping the career growth of learners who are already employed.

 

Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

Commonwealth of Learning (COL) was established through a Memorandum of Understanding among governments of Commonwealth countries in the year 1988. COL is an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Governments to encourage the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. 

 

Pitfalls

However, there is a general lack of enthusiasm in employing a graduate or diploma holder under ODL mainly because the piece - meal learning over a considerably long time for completion of degree or diploma.  Also, the syllabus and learning material in most ODL institutions are far below acceptable standards. There is a general complaint that the study centres are barely equipped to provide adequate education assistance.  Hence many private firms expressly refuse to consider graduates or diploma holders from ODL system. In this respect, IGNOU graduates and those from some state open universities enjoy acceptable reputation. The qualifications offered by the departments of correspondence courses of regular universities are of  shallow quality. 

Like any educational programme, distance learning comes with a host of pros and cons. Before students enroll in any distance learning programme, they should carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages to be sure in getting an education that meets their needs, strengths and career goals.

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