Open and Distance Education in India: In Which Direction Is the Wind Blowing in the 21st Century?

Open and Distance Education in India: In Which Direction Is the Wind Blowing in the 21st Century?

Sovik Mukherjee
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJIDE.2018040101
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The goal of this article is to look into the effectiveness of ODL on the level of economic development across fifteen major states in India, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal by constructing an ODL Effectiveness Index (ODLEI). The variables considered here are — 1) number of ODL institutes in the state concerned, 2) number of students enrolled in such institutes, 3) logarithmic value of per-capita GSDP and 4) state-wise literacy rates. The index construction method employs Principal Component Analysis (PCA) given the high-degree of multicollinearity among the variables. Comparison of the value of ODLEI in 2015 with the value of ODLEI in 2010 is also something that this article talks about. Also, using a simple regression model, this article attempts to underline the nexus between growth, measured by means of change in the GDP growth with the level of enrolment in distance education in India.
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1. Introduction

The most flourishing economies in the world today are those that channelize their resources for the development of human capital. Open distance learning (ODL) today is one of the vehicles through which exceptional expansion in the field of education in India has happened. The dawn of knowledge-based economies is in a way giving comparative advantages to nations that bank more on technical modernism, vocational skills and higher education. The 21st century has seen a substantial rise in the number of engineering colleges (both government and private), business schools, private universities, distance-education institutes across the Indian subcontinent. While, Open Learning is the philosophy, Distance Education is a means to accomplish such philosophy. India has become one of the leading DE systems in the world, second only to China.

Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system gives both the teachers and the students the facility of interacting with one another in spite of not being physically present. Given the plethora of ODL institutes and programmes coming up in the last decade across different states in India, it is becoming more and more important to understand to what extent is ODL effective in influencing not only the concerned states’ growth but also the literacy rate as well as student enrolment. In this backdrop, the research question that this paper examines is what is the relative position of fifteen major states in India, viz., Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal and a comparison in the value of the index in 2010 with 2015. The growth in the number of engineering colleges, b-schools, private universities, distance-education institutes has undoubtedly boosted the enrolment numbers across India (refer to Table 1). Having the third largest education system, India has to improve its statistics in the area of higher education as the Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) in 2015 stood at 23.6 per cent. To achieve the target of GER at 30 per cent by 2020, advocates of distance and open education encourage the likes of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), State Open Universities (SOUs), Correspondence Course Institutes (CCIs) and other traditional central and state universities to come forward and offer distance education programmers (Gaba & Li, 2015).

Today with internet access becoming affordable and easy for the general mass, Online Learning has gathered momentum as compared to the last decade. In spite of this, in the Indian context, University Grants Commission (UGC) does not recognize any course offered solely through the online mode. Despite the fact, online programmers are being offered by some of the ODL as well as formal institutions across the country today, for their contribution is unquestionably required to increase the scale of distance education in India. The author digresses to a different topic but very much relevant in this perspective. Coming to the subject of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs have been designed by Dennis Yang, President of Udemy), a recent upsurge has been witnessed, which is phenomenal. India and the US are planning to introduce MOOCs courses via an online platform designated as — ‘Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds’ (SWAYAM). IIT Mumbai and UC Berkerley have joined hands to execute this program. Also, Microsoft research has signed an agreement with Visvesvaraya Technological University (VTU) to provide online certificate courses in this regard. All the IITs alongside IISc Bangalore have become a part of the National Program on Technology Enhanced Learning (NPTEL) supported by the MHRD for delivering MOOCs. According to ‘MOOC Hype Cycle’ the author believes that India has already passed the phase of technology trigger (refer to Figure 1) and going by the recent trends, India will reach the peak in a flash.

Table 1.
Number of distance education institutes across major states in India (2014-15)
StatesNo. of Distance Education Institutes (2014-15)
Andhra Pradesh27
Arunachal Pradesh01
Himachal Pradesh01
Jammu and Kashmir02
Madhya Pradesh09
Tamil Nadu26
Uttar Pradesh18
West Bengal07

Source: Calculated by the authors based on data from AISHE (2014-15)

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