IGNOU is reaching out to those who have missed out on mainstream education, taking it to the doorsteps of learners and offering inclusive education without barriers.

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) seems to be expanding its horizons, with nearly 6.36 lakh new students joining the prestigious institution this academic year.

It has now got over 28 lakh students, a national network of 61 regional centres, over 3,000 learner support centres and a presence in 36 countries.

Elaborating on IGNOU's national goals for higher education that include expansion, inclusion and excellence, Vice-Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai says that IGNOU is now the world's largest university.

“After successfully evolving unique models of democratisation of education, training and capacity-building in the open- and distance-learning mode, we are now also offering on-campus programmes,” he says.

Community colleges

Dr. Pillai says that IGNOU's community college scheme, which aims to provide an alternative system of education to those who have missed out on mainstream education, is a great success, with 271 such colleges becoming operational. This number is expected to rise to 500 by the year-end, he adds.

On the several initiatives launched by the university during the recent times, Dr. Pillai says these include Gyan Deep, in collaboration with the Army, the convergence scheme and establishment of regional institutes of vocational education and training, in association with Srei Sahaj eVillage. The pioneering programmes launched for the aurally challenged remains a testimony to IGNOU's commitment to reach out to the unreached, to take education to the doorsteps of learners and offer inclusive education without barriers.

Dr. Pillai says the university will strive to utilise optimally the educational and training infrastructure and the intellectual capabilities available in the formal and informal sectors, be it private or public, to ensure the success of the national mission for significantly increasing the gross enrolment ratio.

The university will further work to implement the objectives of the national skill development mission.

In response to the recent UN Convention on Disability, IGNOU, along with the International Centre for Sign Language and Deaf Studies and the Ishara Foundation, is planning to develop a vision for a college for the aurally challenged, where Indian and international students can study a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in sign language, Dr. Pillai says.

New programmes

The university has announced new programmes in management of mental retardation and visual and aural disabilities, an M.Ed. course in special education and an M.Sc. programme in counselling and family therapy. IGNOU has already announced a BA course in applied sign linguistics, to begin from the July 2010 academic session.

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