Breaking Barriers in Access to Quality Education : Prof. Latha Pillai, IGNOU, India

Prof. Latha Pillai
Pro Vice Chancellor, IGNOU

How far has IGNOU progressed since the launch of the Associate degree programme in July, 2009 in Community Colleges?

The 51 colleges which are functional, have sent their first batch of students for examinations  scheduled in the month of December-January where approximately 11000 students have undertaken the certificate course. After the certificate course programmes, now around 15 colleges have clearly articulated that they want to go for an associated degree programme and building their curriculum around the programme.

Could you elaborate on the programme called Gyan Deep and the kind of course structure that will be imparted?

Gyandeep is a bold initiative of IGNOU to educationally empower the soldiers of the Indian army by granting of degrees – a step aimed at providing the jawans with a second career option. It is based on the US system of community colleges in defence cantonments, and will benefit a majority of 1.2 million soldiers of the army.

On 4th September the programme was launched after signing of a memo-randum of understanding between the Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor and IGNOU Vice Chancellor V.N Rajshekharan Pillai. At present we have 650 registrations for the Diploma programme for the first batch. The programmes into demand are BA, B.Com and Tourism. Infact, the army is going to set up their office in IGNOU campus very soon to coordinate the course. The average enrollment every year will be about 50,000.   
Community colleges are being seen as bringing about a silent revolution in the field of education. What are the major expectations of IGNOU from this initiative?

Community colleges are functioning more into enhancing the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) that we were always talking about. Besides, through these colleges the National Skill Development Mission is also getting support. We also support existing institutes who are already into the process of imparting skill based training. For example TVS College which was into skill development training and now have come forward to set up a community college. The specilisation that IGNOU offers is that it provides academic mobility and certification as well recognised in the formal stream.    

What are the strategic areas that IGNOU is now looking forward for growth and expansion? Any new alliances that is proposed for the future?

The upcoming project is the Telecentre Academy because IGNOU is going to host the global Telecentre Secretariat to be functional by January 2010. 

IGNOU is also collaborating with UNESCO where the organisation has decided to co-certify the Journalism curriculum that we offer. And now UNESCO is interested in collaborating in many of the courses that we offer like the teacher education programme, the community radio initiative using ICTs for the training and course on culture preservations. The UNFPA has also expressed its interest to work with us in the health sector. 

Now the Parliamentarians are also participating in supporting the community colleges by contributing from MP fund for the developmental cause. The School of Gender and Development Studies is also looking for collaborations to carry out its projects in addition to its Masters programme.

What are the academic programmes that are going to take off under your leadership?

I am currently coordinating a programme in ‘Rehabilitation Psychology’ jointly with the Rehabilitation Council of India which is housed at the National Centre for Disability Studies.

As the part of our Silver Jubilee celebration I have been coordinating a Silver Jubilee series of 12 lectures.   

Besides, as far as the schools are concerned, the School of Agriculture is into many ventures like agriculture policy, dairy technology, sericulture etc.  

Recently, Coastal Community College as an IGNOU-MSSRF has been initiated in the 5th anniversary of TSunami in which there will be a special programme for the fishermen to train them about the use of communication-technology when ever there is a sign of any disaster. 

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