India has come a long way in the field of education from Gurukul teaching to the use of high technology visual aids in the classroom. Being a country with a diverse population, the challenge of ensuring 100% literacy ishuge. The answer to the problem of inadequacy in higher education came in the form of Open University education. Unlike the regular courses, the courses conducted through distance education opened up a horizon of opportunities to a much wider population across the country. This article analyses the advent and growth of Open University education in India.
Open University- a blanket term
It is a general tendency to confuse Open University with distance education, wherein most of the times it is considered synonymous. Open University education was introduced with the aim of providing education to people beyond the constraints of age, location and educational background. Distance education is a subset of it and has its restrictions for age and qualification set by the respective universities. It is important to note this differentiation between the two for further reading.
The advent of Open University education
The immediate need for an education system that discounted certain factors mentioned above, to expose more people to the benefits of higher education, culminated in the advent of Open University education. The first Open University was the Andhra Pradesh Open University (also known now as Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Open University), started at Hyderabad in the year 1982. Following a good response, the Government of India approved the opening of the Indira Gandhi Open University (IGNOU) through a parliamentary act, in the year 1985. It is still deemed as the best open university in India.
How Open University enables distance education
The establishment of IGNOU was an important milestone in distance learning in India. It became the governing body for all state open universities and distance education institutes and ensured that the standard of education was uniform across universities.The distance education council (DEC) was in charge of the distance education programs offered by various institutions. In the year 2013, it was taken over by University Grants Commission (UGC) and renamed as distance education bureau (DEB). All these governing bodies are managed by the ministry of human resources, Government of India.
How Open Universities enable Distance Learning
Distance education in the form of correspondence courses was started, much before open universities were formed, by the Delhi University in 1962.The Open University courses started off with a handful of students and today havemore than three crorestudents in India. The study material has changed drastically over the years from books sent through post to the candidate, to virtual classroom sessions and interactions that happen today through video conferencing.
Today, one of the most popular courses is the MBAopen university program, chosen by many working professionals. The role of open universities, along with one of its main propagation channels in the form of distance learning, in increasing the literacy and the employment index in India has been phenomenal. The reach of universities to the smallest of villages stands as a testimony to the advancement in scientific technology as well.