Within pursuance to the announcement of hundred days agenda of HRD associated with ministry by Hon’ble Human Resources advancement Minister, a New Policy on Distance Learning In Higher Education Sector was drafted.
1 . In terms of Entry sixty six of List 1 of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, Parliament is competent to make laws for that coordination and determination of specifications in institutions for higher education to get research, and scientific and technical institutions. Parliament has enacted laws for discharging this responsibility by means of: the University Grants Commission (UGC) for general Higher Education, the All of India Council for Technical Schooling (AICTE) for Technical Education; as well as other Statutory bodies for other disciplines. As regards higher education, through the distance setting, Indira Gandhi National Open University or college (IGNOU) Act, 1985 was passed with the following two prime goals, among others: (a) To provide opportunities intended for higher education to a large segment of population, especially disadvantaged groups living in remote and rural areas, adults, housewives and working people; and (b) to encourage Open University plus Distance Education Systems in the educational pattern of the country and to coordinate and determine the standards such systems.
2 . The history of distance education or education through distance setting in India, goes way back when the universities started offering education through distance mode in the name of Correspondence Courses through their Directorate/School of Correspondence Education. In those days, the courses within humanities and/or in commerce were offered through correspondence and taken by those, who, owing to various reasons, including limited number of seats within regular courses, employability, problems associated with access to the institutions of higher studying etc ., could not get themselves enrolled in the conventional `face-to-face’ mode `in-class’ programs.
3. In the recent past, the demand with regard to higher education has increased enormously throughout the country because of awareness about the significance better education, whereas the system of higher education and learning could not accommodate this ever increasing need.
4. Under the circumstances, a number of establishments including deemed universities, private universities, public (Government) universities and even other institutions, which are not empowered in order to award degrees, have started cashing on the situation by offering distance education programmes in a large number of disciplines, ranging from humanities to engineering plus management etc ., and at different levels (certificate to under-graduate and post-graduate degrees). There is always a danger that some of these institutions may become `degree mills’ offering sub- standard/poor quality education, consequently eroding the credibility of degrees and other qualifications awarded through the distance mode. This calls for a far higher degree of coordination among the worried statutory authorities, primarily, UGC, AICTE and IGNOU and its authority : the Distance Education Council (DEC).
5. Government of India had solved its position in respect of recognition of degrees, earned through the distance mode, for employment under it vide Gazette Notification No . 44 out dated 1 . 3. 1995.
6. Regardless of the risks referred to in para 4 above, the significance of distance training in providing quality education plus training cannot be ignored. Distance Mode of education has an important role regarding:
(i)providing opportunity of learning to individuals, who do not have direct access to face to face teaching, working persons, house-wives etc .
(ii)providing opportunity to working professionals in order to update their knowledge, enabling these to switchover to new disciplines plus professions and enhancing their skills for career advancement.
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(iii)exploiting the potential of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) within the teaching and learning process; plus
(iv)achieving the target of 15% associated with GER by the end of 11th Strategy and 20% by the end of twelfth five year Plan.
7. To be able to discharge the Constitutional responsibility associated with determination and maintenance of the specifications in Higher Education, by ensuring dexterity among various statutory regulatory regulators as also to ensure the promotion of open and distance education system in the country to meet the dreams of all cross-sections of people for advanced schooling, the following policy in respect of distance learning can be laid down:
(a) In order to guarantee proper coordination in regulation associated with standards of higher education in different procedures through various modes [i.e. face to face and distance] as also to ensure trustworthiness of degrees/diploma and certificates awarded by Indian Universities and other Education Institutes, an apex body, specifically, National Commission for Higher Education and Research shall be established in line with the recommendations of Prof. Yash Pal Committee/National Knowledge Commission. A Standing Panel on Open and Distance
Education and learning of the said Commission, shall embark on the job of coordination, determination plus maintenance of standards of education with the distance mode. Pending establishment of the body:
(i) Only those programs, which do not involve extensive useful course work, shall be permissible with the distance mode.
(ii) Universities / institutions shall frame ordinances or regulations / rules, as the case may be, spelling out the outline of the programmes to be offered with the distance mode indicating the number of needed credits, list of courses with assigned credits, reading references in addition to personal learning material, hours of research, contact classes at study centres, assignments, examination and evaluation process, grading etc .
(iii) DEC of IGNOU shall only assess the competence of university/institute in respect of conducting range education programmes by a team of experts, whose report shall be positioned before the Council of DEC regarding consideration.