Sunday, 15 May 2016

Education From A Distance

A few days back I received a call from my senior colleague who told me to visit the Distance Center of Education of Jamia as they had some work. They had many assignment copies for checking and needed teachers to check them. Since seniors are often too busy, they refer such tasks to juniors.

Distance mode of education is for students'who for some reason are unable to attend usual regular course' classes. The center has helped many students, since its inception in 2002. The students come from varied backgrounds, but most are quite poor. Students that I had met some of them came from far off areas, could not even afford to travel for regular classes The study material is sent through post, and classes are held on the weekends (Sat-Sun). Some of them did not carry any mobile phones and some were first-generation learners in their families. The class divide is quite visible. 

A colleague from the center told me about students' coming from different parts of India like Kashmir, UP, etc. Also, many girls from Muslim parts of Delhi (Old Delhi, Seelampur, Sangam Vihar, etc) join here. Boys who left their studies mid-way to join family businesses/ shops' and now wanted to pursue their education, and girls' mostly whose families did not allow them to join regular college were regulars here. This was probably the only place that orthodox families allowed girls' to travel to.  Girls' dressed like dolls' for Sat/Sun classes, because probably that is the only time that they are allowed to be on their own and they experience the 'college life', remarked a friend from the Center, . 

The sensitivity of the University administration dealing with these special students' becomes even more important here. Students'defying their families to get themselves educated, changing buses to reach the institute, making numerous rounds of the offices' for small things, calls for a lot of dedication and patience, on the part of both students' and the University. The students' have a confused, scared look on their faces', they need assurance first and problem solving later, explained my friend, who is a part of the administration.    
One girl had missed the date for filling the form due to her fathers' by-pass surgery and had come with him to make a request to allow her to sit in the exams. The rules did not allow this year, but next year she could sit for both the exams (could give papers for two years!). So, she could save her academic year. There were many students' who came with different excuses/reasons to request for waking up late to the last date, some even cried buckets for losing out on a year but the consolation was the same, to apply for two years next session.

The assignments' from some of the students looked like carbon copies. Some had copied from internet, from Wikipedia with "citation needed" copied as well! (Internet copying is a universal problem though!). One student had submitted a 230+ page assignment!
(PhD Thesis these days are less lengthy!) 

Students' enthusiasm, overcoming hardships to get a degree is commendable but, apart from degree how much knowledge or learning are they able to get is a different issue. Education with its single focus on the Degree/ passing exams as compared to making the students' understand for learning/knowledge is a dilemma that we struggle with everyday. The insistence on rote learning for getting good grades is usually seen as sufficient!

 When we have debates over University autonomy, issues like ideological debates over Left/Right etc. there are even more basic problems that we need to understand that we take for granted. We need more public universities with better facilities and more scholarships for students'. Recently when I discussed this with a friend, she shared that in her University (Central India) some students' are so poor that they go without food for days'. In the interiors of India problems are even more complex. 

1 comment:

  1. Well articulated and there are so many issues that need to be discussed, I might write my very own blog as a response to this.