Identifying knowledge and skills which are necessary for the optimal and sustainable utilisation of the natural resources and providing such skills to all the literate and educated people should be the objective of the Community College system in Kerala, says Ms. D. Purandeswari, Union Minister of State for Human Resources Development.

The Union Minister was inaugurating the country’s first Community College directly run by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in Pathananmthitta on Monday.

Ms. Purandeswari said the challenge before the State was to make its literate people functionally literate by providing them vocational and skill-oriented education and training. Linking of the collegiate education system with flexible and innovative ways of vocational education and work-integrated learning is Kerala’s need of the hour, she added.

Ms. Purandeswari said the Madras Community College established in 1995 was the first community college in India and as many as 95 such colleges, including unrecognised ones, have come up by 2003 with similar objectives. By starting to recognise the community colleges, the IGNOU has started a revolution in the Indian vocational and higher education sector as its basic objective was to promote distance education and democratising the higher education system. The very purpose of the community colleges is that it gives a second chance to those who have dropped out of schools and for providing opportunities for those who otherwise would have been excluded, she said.

“Though around 160 million children go to standard one, as many as 153 million of them eventually drop out, leaving only the remaining seven million to make it to higher education. Though we have 343 universities and 18,720 colleges across the country today, our enrolment has not even touched 10 per cent and community colleges are the only alternative system for the remaining 90 per cent who have lost the chance for academic learning,’’ the Minister said.

She said statistics showed that nearly 40 million people are unemployed even after registering themselves at the employment exchanges and these are people who have completed their formal education, but remain unemployed because they do not have the skills which industries are looking for.

According to Ms. Purandeswari, many industry representatives themselves volunteer to teach at a good number of community colleges and take students for onsite training because it provides a win-win situation for the industry as well as the community colleges and the poor people who need employment. Moreover, industries too feel socially responsible in such a collaboration, she added.

The Minister said the community college model was now finding its place in the 11th Five Year Plan. The 11th Plan document has identified the community college system as an innovative educational alternative rooted in the community providing skill-based, livelihood-enhancing education and eligibility for employment to the disadvantaged and under-privileged like the urban poor, rural poor, tribal poor and women.

Presiding over the function, Mr. Anto Antony, MP, said the IGNOU Community College would start functioning in two rented buildings in Pathanamthitta town and at Kaipattoor near Pathanamthitta. He said

IGNOU would set up its own campus in Pathanamthitta in a time-bound manner.

In his welcome speech, Mr. K. Sivadasan Nair, MLA, said himself, the MP and the municipal chairman, Zakir Hussein, have already started the search for government land for setting up the college campus adding that the land required for the same would be made available in the next few months itself.

Dr. V.N. Rajashekharan Pillai, IGNOU Vice-Chancellor, said the Community College in Pathanamthitta would start as many as 29 academic programmes, including seven associate degree programmes and four post-graduate degree programmes soon.

Prof P.J. Kurien, Rajya Sabha member, Dr. Latha Pillai, IGNOU Pro-vice chancellor and Mr. Zakir Hussein, municipal chairman, also spoke.