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November 6, 2009

IGNOU explores US Community College model to ensure massive outreach of education

New Delhi:What’s common among Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governor of California, Ellin Collens, Space Shuttle Commander, Oscar Hijuelos, Pulitzer Award winner, a Chemistry Nobel Prize winner, George Lucas, Tom Hanks and Clist Estwood? All of them started their education at Community Colleges in the United States of America.

IGNOU and American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) today on the campus started dialogues through presentations to evaluate strengths of American model of Community Colleges (CCs) under the aegis of US-India Educational Foundation (USIEF).

A two-member team of AACC, headed by Dr Judith Irwin, Director of International Programmes and Services of the AACC, discussed a slew of novel ideas in the areas of social development through Community Colleges.

In his welcome address to Dr Judith Irwin, Vice Chancellor Professor VN Rajasekharan Pillai said, “The purpose of this interactive is to evaluate and discuss the US model of Community Colleges and integrate it in the IGNOU system of Community Colleges. We at IGNOU and probably other Indian universities too would like to request the AACC to have a formal tie-up for Community Colleges in India . We will commission a focused team of the Community Colleges of IGNOU to discuss more with the USIEF to adopt the US system for the IGNOU Community Colleges.”

Of 700 applicants from all parts of the country IGNOU followed a rigorous process of assessment and standardization and registered 50 Community Colleges in July 2009. Prof Pillai said over 12,000 students from these colleges will take their first semester examinations in December 2009. Prof Pillai also assured audience and the distinguished guests to create a “single window” system for clearance of important decisions and recommendations with regard to CCs.

Dr Judith Irwin gave her presentation on behalf of the AACC, whereas four out of the 50 Community Colleges registered with IGNOU submitted their presentations.

Enthusiasm was very high even as Dr Judith through a presentation explained in details the American model of Community Colleges. In the US the Community Colleges constitute the largest segment of higher education. These include nearly 1,200 institutions with an enrollment of 11 million students, 6 million of whom are seeking a degree or certificate. According to an estimate, in the US, the Community Colleges ensure 83% of the tertiary education, of which higher education is only a part. Set against the achievements in the USA in India the figure is merely 11%.

The meeting of the Indian experts with the American educationists will more and more address the following in the coming days :

· Community College System in the USA

· Curricula through skill-based programmes

· Use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in

the pedagogy in Community Colleges

· Credit articulation and transfer agreement

· Evolving paradigms

· Standard Guidelines to individual colleges

Dr Irwin said in the Us there are 1195 CCs. Of these 177 belong to Independent Bodies, 31 to Tribal organiosations and 987 to the government. The CCs there have four categories, for Freshers, Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors. After the Associate Degrees, the freshers and sophomores go vertically mobile to do their graduations and post-graduations and also post-doctoral research. A host of modern vocation-oriented educational programmes and training are offered to students laced with placements, as all these are promoted and supported by the industries. “The US CCs are accessible, affordable, adaptable, and accountable to all students, both internal as well as international”, said Dr Irwin. “Our alumni from the CCs include Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel Prize winners, Chief Executives, Scientists, Governors, US Cogressional Rerpresentatives, Producers and actors of films, documentary films and athletes”, she added.

Over 46% of all post-secondary level education is in the CCs in the US, who study in a system of 6.5 million credit programmes, 5.5 million non-credit programmes and the average age of the enrolled students in the US CCs is 28, Dr Irwin said. The most community colleges provide open access, enabling both the US and international students to benefit from the high-quality and low-cost courses they offer.

These students are enormously diverse-in terms of goals, needs, backgrounds, and life circumstances. At the same time, these colleges increasingly recognize that their students will live in a multicultural, interdependent society. For this reason, community colleges are expanding their programs and services to embrace the "world community".

Asked about the acceptability in other countries of the US model of Community Colleges, Dr Irwin said, “As the primary advocacy, leadership, and service organization for community colleges in the United States, AAAC actively supports an international role for community colleges in all dimensions of worldwide education and training. It is evident that the community colleges are strategically positioned and experienced to educate and train individuals to function successfully in a multicultural and advanced technological environment that crosses all boundaries of education, communication, language and business. Community colleges are providing assistance to other countries such as China, Thailand and Vietnam where there is a heightened interest to adopt the US community college model.”

There are feelers, that the best of the American model of the Community Colleges would be considered for integration in the IGNOU Community College system. Stressing the point IGNOU Pro-Vice Chancellor Dr Latha Pillai said, “We are open to ideas. We shall explore for the best practices in the US system and examine whether these are compatible with Indian conditions. Definitely the best examples will be given proper attention.”

Referring to IGNOU’s recent tie-up with Indian Army for setting up Community Colleges to empower the in-service and retired personnel, Vice Chancellor expressed hope that in about five years time the IGNOU enrolment figure will reach 5 million, in which the enrolment in Community Colleges will be a major factor. The Army colleges apart, scopes are wide open to turn many of the Common Service Centres in village panchayats into vibrant Community Colleges by that time. The American model is gaining on popularity increasingly world over, said Professor Pillai.

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