Starting his teaching career as a lecturer in 1984, R Krishnakumar, went on to become the principal of Ambedkar College, Nagpur, in 2000. He is recognised for his contribution in the academic arena in Maharashtra. He is associated with a number of educational, social, cultural and scientific organisations in the country. Currently as the vice chancellor (VC) of Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University (YCMOU), Krishnakumar spoke with Rajesh Rao on the role of distance education in eradicating illiteracy in India.
What role has the YCMOU played in Maharashtra as compared to IGNOU?
One of the leading open universities in India today, the YCMOU headquartered in Nashik, initially used study material from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), when it was started in 1989. There is no doubt that IGNOU is way bigger than YCMOU, and is recognised as the biggest open university in distance education.
We are catering to the educational needs of Maharashtra that are altogether different from other parts of the country. Our dedicated faculty is trained in distance education methodology, responsible for designing, developing and delivering academic programmes, specifically for the regional needs.
What are the outreach programmes planned for the state and what are your plans for going national?
With over 3,500 centres operating at taluka levels in the state, our next goal is to enter rural areas. The university is now empowered to extend its operations outside Maharashtra and we have already started operating in Kerala, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.
We have gone national and have plans to extend our operations anywhere across the globe. At a recent Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) meeting of VCs of open universities in India, it was decided that we will have a common source of study material that can be used by everyone.
What progress has distance education made in educating the masses?
A major issue with education in India is its affordability and distance education is the best option. It is observed that nowadays students studying in conventional education centres are less interested in attending classes and preparing for exams. It might be because the system is very exam-oriented.
Realisation of our dream to make India a superpower by 2020 depends upon how effective our efforts are in building a knowledge society. Therefore, our goal at YCMOU is to reach out to people who have not yet benefited from this programme.
How is the industry response to distance education methodology?
The industry response to distance education methodology is now well-supported. At present, we are running a model of industry-academia collaboration with Lupin India, the largest manufacturer of anti-tuberculosis drugs.
We have selected 120 standard XII students from science stream, after written tests and interviews, for our BSc in industrial drug science programme. For the first time, we have involved industry in designing the curriculum for this course and also to help us in its implementation. The per year fee of Rs12,000 for all the students is provided by Lupin India, along with a job at the company.
What are the new courses you are planning to launch?
The Commonwealth of Learning (CoL), an intergovernmental organisation based in Vancouver, Canada, is in the process of designing the curriculum for a special programme meant for people from road transport sector, like truck drivers, bus drivers and rickshaw drivers. The five-month course will equip them with road safety and traffic rules along with introduction to subjects like psychology, sociology, economics and history.
We are also designing a special course for sports players. Sports people have all the qualities like alertness, team spirit and discipline, required by an employer. The only thing they lack is an educational background, due to which they are often neglected and end up unemployed. The six-month programme will equip them with the right skills to make them employable.
Courtesy: DNA India