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Published in the 16-31 Mar 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Maintaining the right distance!
Jamia excels in distance & open learning

Jamia Millia Islamia, now a full-fledged central university, has made its mark felt in the comity of universities as far as distance education is concerned. The department is now one of the most prestigious faculties of the university under the astute administration of Prof Mohammed Mian, a highly venerated figure in the field for his pioneering research. 
In fact with increasing population and consequent demand on higher education and paucity of resources, the traditional system is breaking up under the weight of the challenge of providing excellent education to all. Open and Distance Learning discipline provides the answer to satisfy the needs of a special cross section of society and to reach the un-reached, explains Prof Mian, a visiting professor to many renowned universities. 
Mohammed Mian: Jamia excels in distance & open learning

Opines Mohammed Mian that the system of Distance Education can be a catalyst for the educational process in otherwise inert sections of Muslim community who are not exposed to better avenues of regular education. He further laments that the number of Muslim students in the stream can increase by leaps and bounds if they know about the concept. He emphasized that there was need to advertise and popularize these courses in the densely populated Muslim areas all over the country.

The first correspondence course according to Mohammed Mian, started with the Delhi University in 1962 in the name of Non Collegiate Education. This grew over a period of time and many universities started correspondence education. In the beginning only print material was used for providing assistance in learning. This was quite an improvement over the system of private candidates where no material was officially available to candidates. 

The first Open University came into existence in 1992 with the opening of BR Ambedkar Open University, Hydrabad. Mian says, "Prof. G Ramareddy could easily be given the credit of elevating the standard of correspondence education to Distance Education. In Distance Education the multimedia material is used for transaction. Indira Gandhi National Open University came into being in 1995.

Opines Mohammed Mian that the system of Distance Education can be a catalyst for the educational process in otherwise inert sections of Muslim community who are not exposed to better avenues of regular education. He further laments that the number of Muslim students in the stream can increase by leaps and bounds if they know about the concept. He emphasized that there was need to advertise and popularize these courses in the densely populated Muslim areas all over the country. In Jamia, a considerable number of Muslim students are benefiting by this stream according to Mian.

Now the country has 12 Open universities and more than 100 centres for Distance and Open Learning in conventional universities. The efficacy of the system is established by large-scale empirical research which the IGNOU has sponsored at different point of time. With the development of modern technology, various channels of learning are being used like interactive TV and Radio and internet.

What actually used to happen earlier was that only courses not requiring practical training, were offered through Distance/Correspondence mode. But there is a sea change today. Professional courses like Teachers’ Training, Nursing, Computer, Engineering, Bio-technology etc are also on offer through distance learning. The preparation for a teacher requires a longer duration than in the conventional system. The distance takes care of this and there’s a two-year course in the Teachers’ Training for secondary school teachers. This helps the trainees to understand and assimilate the psychological principles of learning and have sufficient time to practice or test the same in the classroom during their sufficiently long internship.

Mohammed Mian thinks that the very foundation of Jamia Millia Islamia after the idea was mooted by Gandhiji in 1920 at Aligarh and its shift to Delhi in 1925, it was assured that it would play a stellar role in the field of education especially for Muslims. Dr Zakir Husain who was associated with Gandhiji's Wardha Scheme of Basic Education’ started a certificate course in Jamia for training of teachers for Basic Education. This institution started by Dr. Husain, is now a comprehensive College of Education. 

Jamia from the very begining was concerned with the education of out of institution adults. Thus, Talim-e-Balighan was a very successful programme of adult education of Jamia. Later it assumed responsibility of educating people in learning Urdu through its centre of Urdu correspondence course that started using the on line courses. Jamia now has a full fledged centre for Distance and Open learning offering courses like BA, MA etc on one side and professional courses like Diploma in Power Generation Engineering , B Ed diploma courses in hardware and software of computers, Masters Degree in Human Resource Management etc. The centre has an independent status . 

As a whole Jamia has been offering courses that have been useful for takers as they provide professional skills that open avenues of employment easily. Like Enginerring, Law , Community Polytechnic , Social Work Teachers’ Training etc. Jamia has also been serving the community with its out-reach programmes through Dr Zakir Husain Memorial Welfare Society and the Dept of Adult and Continuing Education. 

Though the government is encouraging the distance mode and expects that about 40% of the target group will be served by distance mode both IGNOU and the UGC have responsibility to strengthen the system particularly in dual mode universities. There is still a little indifference in providing the human resources for Distance Education. University Grants Commission should consider the situation very seriously for properly equipping these centres with manpower.

Firoz Bakht Ahmed, 
New Delhi

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