Community colleges to accept applications for associate degrees

Priscilla Jebaraj

IGNOU to implement the concept through 200-odd colleges

Until recently, community colleges were largely ignored by formal education system

TNOU has recognised 118 community colleges as its vocational programme centres

CHENNAI: From the coming academic year, community colleges across the country will accept applications for two-year degree programmes, called associate degrees.

The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) plans to introduce the concept in a few months and implement it through the country’s 200-odd community colleges, according to Xavier Alphonse, Director of the Indian Centre for Research and Development of Community Education (ICRDCE) and chairman of the University Grants Commission committee on community colleges. “This is the only way to increase enrolments from the current 10 per cent,” said Dr. Alphonse.

Until recently, community colleges were largely ignored by the formal education system. In recent years, however, there have been efforts to bring these institutions, which train school drop-outs, especially among the urban, rural and tribal poor and women, into the mainstream.

The Tamil Nadu Open University has recognised 118 community colleges as its vocational programme centres for the last two years. In May 2008, the State government issued an order recognising the community college system itself and formally bringing it under TNOU. As many as 83 community colleges across the State have applied for recognition and are expecting their approvals to come through from TNOU later this month, according to Dr. Alphonse.

At a national level, the Eleventh Five Year Plan’s Working Group on Secondary and Vocational Education had recommended that recognition be granted to the community college system and a final decision is expected from the Ministry of Human Resource Development soon. The State government order had also detailed a credit-based vertical mobility scheme using bridge courses to allow community college students to become eligible for Class 10 and 12 qualifications. The associate degree programme by IGNOU is the next step in this attempt to bring community college education into the mainstream, says Dr. Alphonse. Having completed the two-year degree, students would be qualified for a number of professions or for lateral entry into the third year of a regular degree programme.

The Eleventh Five Year Plan has allocated Rs. 100 crore to community colleges under the new schemes section, according to Dr. Alphonse. The money is to be disbursed through a system of “accountability and relative funding”, he said. This means that of the Rs. 15,000 that it takes to train a community college student, only a third would be given to the institution at the time of enrolment. Another third would be handed out halfway through the course, and the final Rs. 5,000 would only be given after the student has been placed in a job. Rather than creating a new agency to oversee community colleges, the Ministry is exploring various existing mechanisms to recognise and fund these institutions.

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