Providing New Avenues in Higher Education : Ashish Upadhyaya, Commissioner, Higher Education, Government of Madhya Pradesh

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The Government of Madhya Pradesh and IGNOU have entered into the global concept of fast education with skill development. It may be mentioned here that the government of India has entrusted IGNOU to launch Community Colleges in the Country to promote, skill-based, and job oriented education. Recently, Government of Madhya Pradesh entered into an association with IGNOU for commissioning 50 community colleges in the state with programme affiliation from IGNOU.

Ashish Upadhyaya, Commissioner, Higher Education, Government of Madhya Pradesh talks to Digital Learning about this association…

Please share your thoughts on the Community Colleges and the Associate Degree programmes? What prompted the Government of Madhya Pradesh to take up this initiative of commissioning 50 community colleges in the State with programme affiliation from IGNOU?

The whole thing began around last year in 2008 when the Government of Madhya Pradesh decided to bring about major changes in the college education system. Earlier, we had the annual examination system, where the students gave exam at the end of the year. In this sytem, the teacher student interaction tended to be less. So in order to increase the interaction between teachers and students, we shifted to semester system. So instead of one examination, we have two examinations in a year.

Apart from this, we also have continous evaluation tests and the project work, where the student can develop her homework through research.

The community college initiative is something that we have initiated in the whole state. Earlier initiatives were to help students groom for their roles in the society. Now we are looking forward to find avenues where they can get hands-on training during their internships. One option is that students can get into various vacancies in the government department. Students can get to learn about various roles in the government sector, get familiar about how the sytem works, etc.

Second option is to tie up with various private players. ICICI has already consented to provide free training to 50 colleges. Wipro India has also come up with a proposal to provide training to students for jobs and give placements through campus recruitments.
With a large number of students enrolling in colleges, we thought of expanding it further  by collaborating with IGNOU for community colleges in Madhya Pradesh. One of the advantages of community colleges is that the syllabus is flexible and can be modified as per the needs of the community. Therefore, wherever the student is lacking, adequate attention can be given and training facilities be provided with hands on skills.

We recently had a meeting with the Vice Chancellor of IGNOU, following which, they have agreed on accredition of the 50 community colleges in our State, one in each district head-quarter. We will be having subsequent meetings to work out the nitty grities. Based on this, we plan to launch the community colleges by July 1st this year.

Could you elaborate on the education scenario in your State and the impact that you think Community Colleges would make?

When I joined two years back, we were not even monitoring what we taught. So my first step was to arrange a meeting with the central board of studies. In the first year, I cleared about 38 subjects with of course giving leverage to universities to increase their subjects upto 20% the syllabus, which has been cleared by the central board of studies. Secondly when we went through the syllabus, we realised that the education being imparted in universities does not give the students enough skills to make them competent in the job market. Therefore, in order to make the students more aware, we started counselling facility for each student when they enter their first year graduation. Based on their aptitude, they can further advance their skills and use the skills imparted to them in the subject to gain a vocation in society. The community college degree will definilty be of help for them.

What are the plans of scaling up the project?

The scaling up of the project is definitely on the agenda. This is the first year. We want to set up colleges in the district headquarters. Gradually we want to improve and expand according to the need and requirements and set up colleges in the block headquarters.

Information and Communication Technology is increasingly playing a major role in the education system. What do you think about its reach and role as far as community college programmes are concerned in your State?

From 2008 January, I have stopped communicating with my colleges on paper. All my circulars, applications, and clarifications, etc are corresponded through email as it takes lot of time on paper. I have ensured that all colleges have computers, LCD projectors and generators. Now we are fully prepared to use the course material presented by IGNOU through audio-video system. The students can have one to one interaction with subject experts at these centres on Saturdays and Sundays. The teachers can also interact with experts through these centres.

ICICI has already consented to provide free training to 50 colleges. Wipro India has also come up with a proposal to provide training to students for jobs and give placements through campus recruitments

Training in ICTs is very important in todays world. Those students who are not familiar with ICTs can be termed as `illiterate` in todays world. IT training makes them fit to be intergrated into the modern society. At the same time, it shouldnot be only a virtual training. It should be related to actual hands-on training, the vocation and future opportunities. This will help them go out in the society and look for good career options.


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