In pursuance of the announcement of 100 days agenda of HRD of ministry by Hon’ble Human Resources development Minister, a New Policy On Distance Learning In Higher Education Sector was drafted.
1. In terms of Entry 66 of List 1 of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution of India, Parliament is competent to make laws to coordinate and determine standards in institutions for higher education for research and scientific and technical institutions. Parliament has enacted laws for discharging this responsibility through the University Grants Commission (UGC) for general Higher Education, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) for Technical Education, and other Statutory bodies for other disciplines. As regards higher education, through the distance mode, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) Act, 1985 was enacted with the following two prime objectives, among others: (a) To provide opportunities for higher education to a large segment of the population, especially disadvantaged groups living in remote and rural areas, adults, homemakers, and working people; and (b) to encourage Open University and Distance Education Systems in the educational pattern of the country and to coordinate and determine the standards in such systems.
2. The history of distance learning or education through distance mode in India goes way back to when the universities started offering education through distance mode in the name of Correspondence Courses through their Directorate/School of Correspondence Education. In those days, the courses in humanities and/or in commerce were offered through correspondence and taken by those who, owing to various reasons, including a limited number of seats in regular courses, employability, problems of access to the institutions of higher learning, etc., could not get themselves enrolled in the conventional ‘face-to-face’ mode ‘in-class programs.
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3. In the recent past, the demand for higher education has increased enormously throughout the country because of awareness about the significance of higher education. In contrast, the system of higher education could not accommodate this ever-increasing demand.
4. Under the circumstances, several institutions, including deemed universities, private universities, public (Government) universities, and even other institutions, which are not empowered to award degrees, have started cashing on the situation by offering distance education programs in a large number of disciplines, ranging from humanities to engineering and management, etc., and at different levels (certificate to under-graduate and post-graduate degrees). There is always a danger that some of these institutions may become ‘degree mills’ offering sub-standard/poor quality education, consequently eroding the credibility of degrees and other qualifications awarded through the distance mode. This calls for a far higher degree of coordination among the concerned statutory authorities, primarily UGC, AICTE, IGNOU, and its authority – the Distance Education Council (DEC).
5. Government of India had clarified its position regarding recognition of degrees earned through the distance mode for employment under it vide Gazette Notification No. 44 dated 1.3.1995.
6. Despite the risks referred to in para 4 above, the significance of distance education in providing quality education and training cannot be ignored. Distance Mode of education has an important role for: