Boost­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion

Qual­ity as­sur­ance strate­gies by UGC en­sure higher en­rol­ment in open and dis­tance learn­ing – es­sen­tial for in­creas­ing skilled labour pool

Millennium Post - - Mp In Focus - AMIT KAPOOR (The au­thor is chair, In­sti­tute for Com­pet­i­tive­ness, In­dia. Deepti Mathur, Se­nior Re­searcher, has con­trib­uted to the ar­ti­cle. The views ex­pressed are strictly per­sonal)

Con­sid­er­ing the sig­nif­i­cant role played by Open and Dis­tance Learn­ing (ODL) in in­creas­ing ac­cess to higher ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia, the In­dian govern­ment last year an­nounced it would recog­nise de­grees and diplo­mas or cer­tifi­cates awarded through this mode at par with those ob­tained through the reg­u­lar mode of ed­u­ca­tion.

ODL has led many peo­ple be­long­ing to the dis­ad­van­taged group, such as those liv­ing in re­mote ar­eas, women af­fected by gen­der bias and also many work­ing pro­fes­sion­als seek­ing to up­grade their skills ac­cord­ing to the chang­ing mar­ket con­di­tions, to en­rol them­selves in in­sti­tutes of higher learn­ing.

Recog­nis­ing the de­grees ob­tained through ODL at par with the con­ven­tional sys­tem for the pur­pose of em­ploy­ment, pri­mar­ily in the pub

lic sec­tor un­der­tak­ings, or for pur­su­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion, will aid in in­creas­ing en­rol­ments in dis­tance learn­ing pro­grammes and also help in bridg­ing the skill gap that the coun­try faces.

In ad­di­tion to the dec­la­ra­tion of de­gree equiv­a­lence of ODL in­sti­tu­tions and the reg­u­lar uni­ver­si­ties, the Univer­sity Grants Com­mis­sion (UGC), the reg­u­la­tory author­ity for the ODL ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia, as a qual­ity as­sur­ance mea­sure, dere­cog­nised the dis­tance learn­ing pro­grammes which re­quire hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence, such as engi­neer­ing, medicine, den­tal, phar­macy, nurs­ing, ar­chi­tec­ture, phys­io­ther­apy and other such pro­grammes. Fur­ther, for pro­fes­sional pro­grammes such as MBA, MCA, B.ED., M.ED., Ho­tel Man­age­ment, Travel and Tourism, recog­ni­tion is no

longer ac­corded with­out prior ap­proval of the re­spec­tive reg­u­la­tory au­thor­i­ties.

For the pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties, the rules for of­fer­ing dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion cour­ses have changed; they are no longer al­lowed to run ODL pro­grammes for which sim­i­lar pro­grammes are not of­fered in the reg­u­lar mode of ed­u­ca­tion in the last five years ow­ing to the lack of ex­pe­ri­enced fac­ulty in the par­tic­u­lar ODL pro­gramme of­fered by the univer­sity.

Fur­ther, UGC has made manda­tory ac­cred­i­ta­tion of Na­tional As­sess­ment and Ac­cred­i­ta­tion Coun­cil (NAAC) for ODL in­sti­tu­tions and other higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions pro­vid­ing the dis­tance learn­ing pro­grammes, as a qual­ity as­sur­ance mea­sure for higher

learn­ing in In­dia. NAAC is the na­tional ac­cred­i­ta­tion agency for higher ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia which eval­u­ates the qual­ity of the ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tion in terms of var­i­ous per­for­mance pa­ram­e­ters, and based on the as­sess­ment, as­signs a Cumu

la­tive Grade Point Av­er­age (CGPA) to it. Ac­cord­ing to the

lat­est UGC guide­lines, higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions which have a valid ac­cred­i­ta­tion of NAAC of min­i­mum CGPA of 3.26 on a 4-point scale and have com­pleted five years of ex­is­tence are el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for pro­vid­ing dis­tance learn­ing pro­grammes.

To fur­ther com­ple­ment the ODL and reg­u­lar univer­sity ed­u­ca­tion sys­tems, the govern­ment launched SWAYAM, a dig­i­tal pro­gramme of learn­ing, by bring­ing on­line hun­dreds of cour­ses taught at the univer­sity/col­lege level to the learn­ers from var­ied back­grounds, and giv­ing them a unique op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand their knowl­edge and skills. For a stu­dent, the in­cen­tive lies in earn­ing cred­its which could be trans­ferred to the cur­rent aca­demic record; for work­ing pro­fes­sion­als, the in­cen­tive is up­skilling at a very low cost.

To as­sure the qual­ity of the con­tent pro­duced and de­liv­ered through SWAYAM, the cour­ses have been pre­pared by spe­cially cho­sen fac- ulty from across the coun­try. Na­tional co­or­di­na­tors have been ap­pointed for dif­fer­ent cat­e­gories of cour­ses for as­sur­ing and man­ag­ing the qual­ity of the cour­ses - AICTE for self-paced and in­ter­na­tional cour­ses, NPTEL for engi­neer­ing, UGC for non-tech­ni­cal post-grad­u­a­tion ed­u­ca­tion, CEC for un­der­grad­u­ate ed­u­ca­tion, NCERT & NIOS for school ed­u­ca­tion, IGNOU for out-of-school stu­dents, IIMB for man­age­ment stud­ies and NITTTR for Teacher Train­ing pro­grammes.

Ac­cord­ing to the All In­dia Sur­vey on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion (AISHE), 2017-18, dis­tance en­rol­ment con­sti­tuted about 11 per cent of the to­tal en­rol­ment in higher ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia. Presently, to pro­vide ODL ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia, there is one Cen­tral Open Univer­sity (IGNOU), 14 State Open Uni­ver­si­ties, one State Pri­vate Open Univer­sity and 110 Dual Mode uni­ver­si­ties that of­fer ed­u­ca­tion through both reg­u­lar and dis­tance modes. These uni­ver­si­ties are mainly con­cen­trated in six states, with Ma­ha­rash­tra, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Ker­ala, West Ben­gal, and Ut­tar Pradesh en­rolling 61.3 per cent of dis­tance ed­u­ca­tion stu­dents in the coun­try (AISHE, 2017).

Look­ing at the year-wise trend in the open learn­ing en­rol­ment in In­dia, there has been a de­cline in en­rol­ment in most of the un­der­grad­u­ate level pro­grammes, ex­cept for Mas­ters in Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion (MBA), where stu­dent en­rol­ments in­creased by 23 per cent over the pe­riod 2016-17 to 2017-18 (AISHE, 2017).

While a ma­jor­ity of the stu­dents choose the tra­di­tional mode of ed­u­ca­tion, ODL has a tremen­dous po­ten­tial to reach the dis­ad­van­taged sec­tions of the so­ci­ety, for whom higher ed­u­ca­tion in the tra­di­tional set­ting is in­ac­ces­si­ble. In fact, ODL ed­u­ca­tion can play an in­stru­men­tal role in achiev­ing the tar­get Gross En­rol­ment Ra­tio of 30 per cent in higher ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia by 2020-21.

The re­cent govern­ment ini­tia­tives in as­sur­ing the qual­ity of ODL ed­u­ca­tion will aid in over­com­ing some of the chal­lenges faced by this sys­tem, and also pos­si­bly re­sult in greater en­rol­ments of stu­dents who were ear­lier dis­re­gard­ing the dis­tance mode of learn­ing due to non-recog­ni­tion of its de­grees/cer­tifi­cates, or due to qual­ity con­cerns about the in­sti­tu­tion pro­vid­ing these, or the con­tent of the cour­ses pro­vided and de­liv­ered. In­creas­ing en­rol­ments in higher ed­u­ca­tion through the ODL mode is one way the coun­try can in­crease its pool of skilled labour force and lessen the skill gap in­duced by tech­nol­ogy changes.

While a ma­jor­ity of stu­dents choose the tra­di­tional mode of ed­u­ca­tion, dis­tance learn­ing has tremen­dous po­ten­tial to reach the dis­ad­van­taged sec­tions of the so­ci­ety for whom higher ed­u­ca­tion in the tra­di­tional set­ting is be­yond ac­cess

Open learn­ing can help achieve Gross En­rol­ment Ra­tio of 30 per cent in higher ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia by 2020-21

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