In the year 1991 Distance Education Council (DEC) was created in the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to fulfil the duty given to IGNOU through the IGNOU Act, 1985 for promoting the Open University and Distance Education Systems in the country. The Distance Education Council (DEC) is an apex body for the regulation of the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system in the country.
Recently, Ministry of HRD in India has decided to transfer the powers and functions of IGNOU and DEC for the regulation of the ODL system to the UGC (University Grants Commission), which was constituted in 1956 to regulate higher education in the country offered through the conventional universities and institutions and the AICTE to regulate technical education. This action of the Ministry is likely to once again lead to the millions of ODL learners being perceived as second rate students and poor cousins of the students studying in the conventional face-to-face institutions. This is how it was before IGNOU was created. It will harm the future of the distance learners who are being benefited by Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system.
When IGNOU was created in 1985 by the Parliament, it was pointed out by the Members of Parliament who debated the Bill that
“correspondence courses …….. have suffered from certain built-in deficiencies, such as, structural rigidity, doubtful quality of correspondence material, lack of multimedia skills. To remedy this we have thought of Open universities.” (Jaipal Reddy, Lok Sabha Proceedings, 1985)”.
“The UGC has, over the years developed its own attitudes and approaches, traditions and conventions and I think that at this stage of the development of the new university, perhaps we should allow it to grow for some time without any formal binding at all.” (K. C. Pant in the Lok Sabha).
In its 247th Report presented to the Hon’ble Rajya Sabha and laid on the table of the Lok Sabha on December 13th, 2012, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on MHRD has stated that
IGNOU “has been doing pioneering work, enabling the students not having the time and means to attend regular classes to reap the benefits of modern day education… In the Committee’s opinion, it would be appropriate if IGNOU and its authority, Distance Education Council continue to carry out their mandate without any hindrance from any quarter…….. The Committee strongly feels that the kind of dedicated, focused and specialized work being done by IGNOU and DEC could not have been accomplished by UGC.”
In view of this, we appeal to all Staff/Teachers/Students/Promoters and sympathizers of the ODL system to sign for this campaign and request the Ministry of HRD to immediately retract this decision of shifting the duty and functions of DEC and IGNOU to the UGC and AICTE and directing them to act as Regulators of Higher and Technical Education offered through the ODL system.