Importance of Distance Education in India Asif Ahmed After independence, India had made tremendous progress in the field of education, though mostly quantitative in nature.
Earlier, education was available only to the elites in society, and a large majority of poor and marginalized people remained illiterate. Political considerations have an important role in the expansion of higher education, especially at the state level. The state government experienced tremendous pressure from the public to establish more and more colleges and universities.In a democratic society, even the strong governments find it very difficult to resist such pressures and are compelled to succumb to the same. These considerations have led to fast expansion of higher education in our country, which in turn, have adverse impact upon its quality.
Therefore, in order to insure access and education of a reasonably good quality, we must think of some alternative system capable of supplementing the role of conventional system, and distance education is one of such alternatives.The distance education mode was adopted by many universities to meet the ever-growing demand of those students who lacked means to pursue higher education through the regular stream. Also, there were economic constraints. Consequently, many universities in India in various regions started correspondence courses or programs by providing notes, developing a system of evaluation of response sheets. The success of these courses led to the establishment of Indira Gandhi National Open University, which is now rated as one of the best distance courses university in the world.Due to limitations of the formal system of education, policy makers were attracted towards non-conventional modes of education for providing non-residential studies like correspondence courses.
The Distance Education mode, in which it is not necessary to bring all the students together to listen to the face-to-face lectures, was considered worthwhile. However in distance education system, the provision of occasional meetings between the teachers and the student is made. These meetings are popularly known asPersonal Contact Programmes (PCPs). The learners receive their study material through postal services for study at their home or workplace. The efforts of the students are supplemented by assignments, which are checked and evaluated by the concerned subject experts. So, Correspondence education is a piece and part of open learning.
Distance education system is also known by some other common names like Correspondence Courses, Correspondence Education, Distance Education and External or Private Appearance etc.This system of education is suitable for the persons who wanted to enhance their qualifications but were not in a position to attend classes on a regular basis. Such distance courses proved a boon for the service persons as well as others desirous of pursuing higher education. As a result, a large number of in-service persons, professionals, entrepreneurs, job-less youth, school teachers, housewives and old aged free persons made a beeline for admission to distance education study programmes.The term Distance Education received a formal recognition in 1982 when the four decades old International Council for Correspondence Education was renamed as the International Council for Distance Education.
The old concept of distance education was exclusively associated with print material, while the new concept of distance education include supplementary material being used through non-print media, also such as radio, television, computers, laptops, Cd’s, through projectors, video lessons and satellites. These institutions may be called the dual mode institutions.Now at present, India has two types of distance education institutions. They are 1.
Correspondence courses institutions. 2. Open Universities. Distance education gets overwhelming response in India, the universities introduced many new distance-education job oriented courses according to the changing times and students requirements. However, in this process, the actual motive of providing quality education to all took the backseat as the main focus of universities slowly shifted to making more and more money.Currently in India, the Distance Education departments are generating the maximum revenue for their universities, in many cases more than even the professional and self financing courses. The only thing to check here that the authorities of the universities running distance education courses should sharply ensure that these institutions of higher learning do not get reduced to degree distributing institutes.So universities and distance institutions higher authorities keep ensure that only quality education should be provided through distance learning programmes.
In case of research based higher studies or some other professional courses being run through distance education, provisions should be made for the proper library, laboratory and required study related essential equipments and materials for the students in coordination with other related universities running similar programmes or located in the same region.It would rather be more appropriate if an inter-university body is set up by the UGC or The International Council for Distance Education of India coordinated by government educational related authorities to monitor and review the distance education programmes run by different universities and to ensure smooth progress of distance education. The correspondence courses institutions are offering more than 400 programmes in India, about 50 percent of which are professional in nature. The enrollment in these institutions is of the order of 9,00,000 in year 1999, which forms 11. 4 percent of the total enrollment in higher education in the country. An important point to be noted here is that the growth rate of enrollment in correspondence and distance education mode has been higher than that of higher education in general (Period,1990-2000,Source-UGC Reports). Distance Education makes it eminently possible to democratize higher education to provide access to high quality education to all, to offer need-based academic programmes, to promote and reach quality education to the learner’s to their doorstep, and to set and maintain standards in higher education.
Relaxed entry and exit regulation, self-appointed pace of study, flexibility in selection of courses, self-determined place of study and examination. Freedom to pursue one’s study at any other place simultaneously and cost effectiveness is the reason’s instrumental in making the experiment in distance education a success. The annual enrolment in Open Universities in our country has gone up from 2,00,939 to 3,50,000 in just three years, i. . , from 1995 to 1998. It is an increase of about 74 percent. Similarly the cumulative enrolment has almost doubled from 5,71,983 in 1995 to 10,50,000 in 1998. The world of technology is being reshaped by global trends such as convergence, increased bandwidth, enhanced multimedia capabilities, miniaturization, environmental variations, increase mobility, enhanced processing power, more powerful cognitive tools and reduced cost.
These trends support transition across four generations in distance education models and associated delivery technologies: Correspondence Model (Print), Multimedia Model (Print; Audio-Video, Counselling sessions and continuous Evaluation Methods, TV / Radio Broadcast); Teleconferencing Model (One way video and Two way Audio teleconferencing, Interactive Phone-in-Radio Counselling) and Computer Aided Learning (Interactive Multimedia, Internet-Based Access better known as community Access Device to www resources) and new techniques of making of Video Lessons and provide and avail these to students in the form of Cd’s.So we can say that distance education mode has become very popular and common in India, because it is catering to a wide range of aspirants (students), who are willing to upgrade their educational qualifications for various reasons. The Distance education system provides opportunities not only to younger students but also to those from the older age groups. The main reasons for increasing interest in Distance education lies in the need for continuing education in today’s competitive world. Every people always try to add value to their competence in their bid to advance their carrier further.Distance Education is also very cheaper to compare with regular mode of education. Distance education has greatly reduced the wall of distance between education and a normal student beyond the long distance of home or work place to university. Now just a little need to increase the need to make it professional and employability part of education community.
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November 2007 issue on page no 29-32.