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Updated: September 1, 2009 13:21 IST

For an alternative system of education

G. Krishnakumar
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Empowering individuals: IGNOU's project aims at skill development through institutions run 'by the community', 'for the community' and 'of the community'.
Empowering individuals: IGNOU's project aims at skill development through institutions run 'by the community', 'for the community' and 'of the community'.

The Indira Gandhi National Open University has come up with an ambitious programme called community colleges. A look at the salient features of the programme.

The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is spreading the message of institutions which are run ‘by the community’, ‘for the community’ and ‘of the community’ through its ambitious community colleges programme.

The objective of this programme is to develop an alternative system of education that aims to empower individuals through appropriate skill development leading to gainful employment in collaboration with the industry and the community.

They offer the advantage of tailor-made programmes to local needs and State-based requirements by using approaches that will be most acceptable to workers in the given community.

Elaborating on the nuances of the programme, Latha Pillai, Pro-Vice Chancellor of IGNOU, who is spearheading the nationwide project, told The Hindu-EducationPlus that the community colleges will provide an educated and skilled workforce that improves the quality of life for individual students, communities, and the nation.

About 110 community colleges have been identified across the nation in the first phase of the programme. More than 65 have become operational, Dr. Pillai said. “It encourages students who may want to attend a three-year degree but are not academically, personally or economically ready to begin study in the formal system. In a community college, students can choose to work towards an associate degree (two-year) in hundreds of academic and technical fields, which will enable them to transfer a regular college or university for completion of a degree,” she said.

Explaining that many school dropouts, late entrants into higher education and those in the workforce, who find entry into the formal system to be rigid, could avail of the programmes of community colleges and equip themselves for a degree, Dr. Pillai said that community colleges will offer students choices to pursue continuing education in whatever format that makes meaning to them (face-to-face, on-line, full-time, or part-time).

“While regular colleges require full-time attendance, community colleges will accommodate students who pursue their studies part-time. Community colleges may provide a faster option for a student who wants a career-oriented qualification and may not require a three-year degree. For example, a student may take a one-year diploma of 32 credits as a pharmacy technician or a 16-credit certificate as an insurance agent from the curricular content available with the college and may be supplemented by IGNOU’s large repository of courses,” she said.

In a community college, students can choose to work towards an Associate Degree (two-year) in hundreds of academic and technical fields that will enable them to transfer themselves to a regular college or university for a completion of degree.

Candidates who have completed 10+2 or its equivalent are eligible to enrol for the associate degree programme.

Students who have completed the Bachelor’s Preparatory Programme of IGNOU could also enrol for the programme. Eligibility for certificate programmes varies from 8th pass and above.

Institutions registered with IGNOU to offer certificate, diploma and two-year post secondary education leading to an associate degree will be referred to as IGNOU-Community Colleges. They will offer a range of programmes at an affordable cost to students of all ages.

A flexible modular pattern of course delivery will be followed in community colleges. The nature of the programmes and their pattern will depend upon the requirements of the local community, which the college serves.

Stating that community college could admit around 40 students for each programme depending on the physical and human infrastructure available, Dr. Pillai said that candidates may be short-listed on the basis of their personal profiles. Certificate programmes should be of six-month duration and equivalent to 16 credits. A diploma programme is of one year duration with 32 credits.

Degree programme

The associate degree programme may comprise foundation courses in the first semester and applied courses in the chosen programme sector during the second semester.

The foundation courses may comprise life and livelihood skills relating to functional English, personality development, computer literacy and communication skills. In the second year, the emphasis may be on electives and applied course. There must be a compulsory component of internship andproject work ranging between 14 to 16 credits in the fourth semester.

For students who complete an associate degree and wish to register for the third year in IGNOU, a credit transfer policy will be worked out between the community college and the university. Community colleges will be registered with IGNOU and the associate degree will be conferred by the university.

It will be governed by a community college board/board of trustees comprising of the founders/management of the college, representative of IGNOU, local government/district, industry/community representatives. The college will also have an academic committee and examinations committee.

The academic committee will oversee the academic planning and management of the college. It will develop the curricular framework and contents for various programmes. Teachers at the community college will be responsible for delivering the programme content.

The examination committee will be responsible for the smooth conduct of the internal assessment, mid-term examination and term-end examination. The committee will consist of the Principal of the college, two teachers of the college from the programme sector, one external academic to be nominated by the College Board, a representative of the industry/community and a nominee of IGNOU.

Dr. Pillai said that IGNOU will help in the capacity development of its community colleges by making available its large repository of courses and programmes through a content sharing agreement. The university will also provide skill-upgradation and pedagogy related training. Examinations will be on a semester pattern and conducted in June and December. As the programme evolves, IGNOU will also provide for on-demand examinations. The university will devise a monitoring mechanism for quality assurance of community colleges.

Regional consortiums/networks of community colleges will be formed to identify and disseminate best practices.

For each programme sector, a national level curriculum review committee will be constituted by IGNOU. An accreditation procedure in line with community colleges across the world will be evolved in due course.

Describing that community colleges can offer their services to industry in a big way, Ms. Pillai said that the institutions could offer contracted services for specific occupational purposes.

Sixty per cent of the programme evaluation will be done by the community college and the remaining 40 per cent by IGNOU.

The examination committee will obtain a panel of examiners for question paper setting and evaluation.

The examination board will consist of at least one external member appointed by IGNOU.

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