Ignou VC interview M Aslam
What is distance learning?
Distance education is a modality which ­provides immense benefit, not only to the learner’s ­population but also to the society as a whole. When a student goes to a university, he/she gets a regular degree, here it goes beyond that. The degree becomes more relevant to the society along with being relevant to the learner. Distance learning offers programmes in unconventional areas, so it is incorrect to say that it is a leftover university for students who do not get admission in Delhi University.
What makes distance education different from learning in other universities?
There are three components that make distance education differ from any other learning, i.e. ­self-learning print material - there is a teacher inside the book. This is further supported by audio-video packages (done through tele-­conferencing, compact disks) and counselling.
What does Ignou have to offer and to whom?
Ignou aims to promote educational ­opportunity and social justice by ­providing ­high-quality ­university education for all ­segments of the society, thus helping achieve democratisation of higher education. Ignou gives hope to all who wish to realise their ambitions and fulfill their potential. We have school-leavers, teenagers who are forced into the labour market, new ­learners who want education training for horizontal and vertical mobility, retired officers from the army, navy and air force who want a degree in skill development to serve the society and benefit themselves and digital students who do not believe in the four wall regime and prefer ­­distance mobility.
New plans for the institute?
I am planning to introduce bridge courses to bring people, particularly the disadvantaged ­sections of the society into mainstream education. These are skill-based courses which will help students do certificate programmes in areas like motor cycle mechanic, organic farming, bee keeping, sericulture, diabetics care, correctional social work - to name a few. It is only about playing with various courses and making an appropriate combination. Paradigm shift is taking place in education. The focus has now changed to employability, adding this component is the only way to move forward. These days a student doesn’t ask whether he/she will become a scholar after taking a particular degree. They are more worried about whether they will get a job or not. We need an education that fulfills contemporary requirements of the society.
The University of Grants Commission has taken over the Distance Education Council. Any comments?
Ever since the University of Grants Commission has taken over the Distance Education Council, I am concentrating more on ­making Ignou a formidable institution. It was a part and parcel of me, but there are other problems like ­unemployment, ­education, increasing number of dropouts that need to be taken care off. We need to mainstream the disadvantaged sections and I think education is the best tool to do this.”