Community Colleges Unearthing Hidden Talents

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Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1994) states, “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free at least in the elementary and fundamental stages… higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”.But the current status of the scenario of higher education in India presents a  very dismal picture in this regard. The Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) is only 12.4%, which is much below the average for the developed nations. While access to mainstream higher education should
be increased, this also calls for creation of avenues for vocational and continuing education.
Among the developing nations, India is a fast developing economy. But the diffi culties still persist in churning out more employment opportunities. Proper  skill-based education and training of the working population will equip them to stand out in the global market. One of
the targets for creation of pool of skilled workforce is the section of vast population where the education system has not been able to penetrate. Access to vocational education and training system has to be created for them.

Nevertheless, while moving towards a knowledge-based economy, the country needs the support of educated and skilled people who can drive India towards its desired level of growth. Following the footsteps of the developed countries, a large pool of skilled workers can give
India a sustainable economic growth by enhancing the effi ciency and fl exibility of the labour market and therefore investment in vocational education and skills development will help making India’s economy competitive in the global market.Community College as an alternative and fl exible system of higher education and vocational training was one of the early concepts of educational institutions that probably established itself in the early 20th century in the United States. Recognising the potential of the Community Colleges as the need of the hour, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) has made its effort
to align Indian vocational and higher education sector with its open learning philosophy.
As an alternative system of education, Community Colleges aim to empower individuals through appropriate skill development leading to gainful employment in collaboration with the local industry and community. They offer the advantage of tailoring programmes to local needs and state-based requirements by using approaches that will be most acceptable to
workers in the given community. The aim is to empower individuals, who were deprived of the opportunities of the conventional education system, through skill development with the help of local ndustry and community. These colleges  would primarily target the disadvantaged section of the rural and urban population with special reference to women.

For the development of the Community College programme IGNOU is following the public-private participation mode where the University is coordinating with the colleges catering to particular communities and the latter is getting registered with the University to offer
Certifi cate, Diploma ad Associate Degree Programmes. Keeping in mind the quality of education necessary for imparting such degrees, IGNOU has created a mechanism for selecting the Community  Colleges to be registered under this scheme. Every prospective Community College has to apply to IGNOU by sending an ‘Expression of Interest’ (EOI). The EOI is later heard in the form of a presentation made by the applicant before a panel of experts and assessment is made on the basis of that. As on date 309 Community Colleges have got registered under this scheme. The Community Colleges offer a fulltime or part-time associate degree with mandatory apprenticeship in the fi rst year generally dedicated to foundation
courses of 16 credits and application oriented courses of 16 credits. The second year is supposed to consist of electives of eight credits, internship of eight credits and project work of 16
credits. They also offer Certifi cate and Diploma Programmes of 16 and 32 Credits respectively and these are tailored to form the fi rst and second modules of the Associate Degree. Moreover, there is provision for lateral exit after completion  of Certifi cate and Diploma.The key feature of the scheme is the proper defi nition of the ‘Community’ and the analysis of its needs. The community can be local based, region based, trade based, ICT enabled service based and
so on and the academic programmes identifi ed should be capable of serving the community.
Community Colleges generally have a 2-year curriculum that leads to an Associate Degree either for the students’ direct entry into any occupation or trade or for transfer to an undergraduate college. Besides, after completing the  programme the students can also have
vertical mobility to an undergraduate programme. To enroll in the Associate Degree Programs a candidate hasto be a 10+2, there is no age bar. A non 10+2 can also join through the Bachelors Preparatory Programme of IGNOU. THE PROGRAMME The Community Colleges are institutions registered with IGNOU and conduct examinations as per the guidelines of IGNOU. The Certifi cation is one by IGNOU. The academic programmes on offer
by the Community Colleges can be broadly divided into three categories, viz IGNOU Programmes directly taken up by the Community Colleges, IGNOU Programmes being handled differently by the Community Colleges and Programmes conceived by the Community Colleges. For the fi rst category, the students concerned will have to follow the
guidelines of IGNOU without any departure and take IGNOU Term End Examinations following the usual norms and procedures. In such case, a Community College can be identifi ed as an examination centre provided there are 50 or more candidates or if the place is located more than 50 km away from the nearest IGNOU examination centre. The sending of Question Papers and management of other logistics will be handled by IGNOU. For the second and third Categories, the examinations are conducted by the respective Community Colleges and the
credits attached with such programmes are actually packaged under validation by the Community College Examination Board as per the guidelines of IGNOU. The Academic Council of IGNOU has approved the programmes on offer at Community Colleges at three levels. These are Certifi cate with 16-20 credits, Diploma with 32-36 and Associate
Degree with 64-68 credits. One credit is equivalent to the workload taken up by a full time student for 15 hours and by a Distance Learning mode student for 30 hours.
Community Colleges can prepare the resource material for the Certifi cate, Diploma and Associate Degree Programme (ADP) as per the local requirement. They are supposed to
receive guidance from the regulatory bodies. These are the Community College Board, which happens to be the apex governing body of the college, the Academic Committee which looks after all academic activities undertaken by the college and the Examination Committee
which manages all assessment and evaluation related tasks undertaken by the college.
It should develop active linkages with rural, agricultural, industrial and commercial organisations of the locality for empanelling part-time instructors providing on-the-job training and placement to successful students. After launching and spreading it across
the length and breadth of the country, it will be more important to evaluate the success rate, trade-wise vocational education imparted, state-wise vocationalstatistics, percentage of  students going n for the further programmes, placement of the students, etc. IGNOU is also into the process of ensuring the quality of operations of academic offerings at the Community Colleges. Capacity building of the faculty and non-teaching staff to ensure quality is highly important and regular training programmes are also being conducted by IGNOU on
various areas such as need assessment, curriculum development, teaching and evaluation methodologies and so on.

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The article is being concluded by touching upon a question which is frequently being asked – Are the degrees to be awarded to a successful learner of a Community College recognised by UGC, AICTE, etc? The same question is being asked about IGNOU Degree/Diploma ever
since the establishment of the University. However, with the phenomenal growth of IGNOU, the intensity of the question has got somewhat lessoned. Nevertheless, the simple answer to the question raised about IGNOU Community Colleges is that the degrees are recognized to the
extent every IGNOU Degree/Diploma is recognised. In this connection, one has to remember that the main issue of recognition is a matter of mind set of the people, and not the paper documents. So let us ask our students to concentrate on their performances. Only by way
of their performance refl ected through their usefulness to the society, they can establish their credibility as well as that of this landmark initiative of IGNOU. \\ Community College does need based analysis of local job equirements and opportunities and incorporate these fi ndings
in the curriculum. Dr. C.K. Ghosh joined IGNOU in the School of Sciences as a Reader in  hysics.

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