VC says Ignou does not have any in-house expertise in Sign language

Contesting the claims made to shut down the Bachelor of Arts Programme in Applied Sign Language Studies (BAASLS) by Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou), the institution’s former Vice Chancellor, V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, during whose tenure the programme was started, said, “The course is well within the mandate of Ignou in every sense.”

The research part behind the development of this Programme was fully supported by the UKIERI (U.K. India Education & Research Initiative). The course was first of its kind in the country. Perhaps it was also the first joint degree programme involving an Indian and foreign University. The MoSJE (Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment) and MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) supported it through substantial funding, Mr. Pillai said.

“The Programme was the realisation of the Central government's commitment to the millions of hearing-impaired people in the country and both Ministries have been proactively supporting this programme of Ignou,” he said.

In an earlier report published by The Hindu, hearing-impaired students expressed their anger and confusion over the shutting down of the only BA in sign language programme on offer in the country. While they were promised a dual degree at the time of enrolment, they were now told to be satisfied with just a Certificate of Participation from the Ignou and a degree from University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), its partner in the United Kingdom.

Defending his decision to shut down the course and Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC), M. Aslam, Ignou Vice-Chancellor told The Hindu that there was a “franchise agreement” between UCLan and Ignou regarding “delivery of UCLan’s BA (Hons) Applied Sign Language at Ignou.”

In the agreement a clause states that “Ignou shall deliver the course as validated by UCLan and be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the course.” Another clause states that “students who decide to complete their studies at the end of the Course/Programme delivered at Ignou shall receive appropriate certificates from UCLan.”

Two independent activities

“In view of the above there is no question as to whether the course is within the mandate of Ignou or not as stated by the former VC. The Franchise Agreement between UCLan was signed in November 2010 whereas the Ministry order for establishment of ISLRTC was issued on 21st July, 2011. These were two independent activities,” said Prof. Aslam.

Prof. Pillai also said, “I am not aware of the current compulsions of stopping the programme. It is for the academics and current dispensation to take a call on it. But the MoU for giving a joint degree approved by all the statutory authorities need to be respected. It is the legitimate right of the students who have successfully completed the examinations to get their degrees from the Ignou. Four long years of systematic work with national and international experts in sign language and academic consultations at all levels were behind the introduction of this programme, I recall. There was not even an iota of opposition or dissent from the academic or administrative circles for this BA Sign Language programme of Ignou.”

Prof. Aslam said that Ignou did not have any in-house expertise in Sign language. “Ignou as on today does not have any provision in its Statutes or Ordinances to issue a joint degree. Therefore, there is no question of respecting statutory authorities as claimed by Prof. Pillai.”

Open to collaboration

He added, “The Ignou and UCLan have mutually agreed on 17th May 2013 to provide all the necessary arrangements so that existing students already admitted to UCLan could complete their study. It was also agreed that both the parties UCLan and Ignou are open to future collaboration, as long as any future partnership are well-planned and in accordance with their respective statutory framework.”

He signed off by saying, “I hope that the above clarifies the position and that there are no further references made to us on this issue. We at the Ignou are equally concerned about the educational well being of hearing impaired students.”

The announcement to set up an ISLRTC in the country was first made in 2010 by then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Making the announcement, he had said, “The allocation [of Rs. 4,500 crore] will also assist in establishing an Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre for the benefit of the hearing impaired.”

Meanwhile, M. Srinivasulu, President, network of persons with disabilities organisations (NPdO) and V. Janaki, President, People with hearing impaired network (PHIN) from Andhra Pradesh, condemned the decision of Ignou to shut down the programme. They demanded a rollback of the decision.

Keywords: sign languageBAASLSIgnou

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