Low enrolment in higher education worrisome: President

New Delhi, April 12 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee Friday expressed concern over India’s low enrolment rate of youths in higher education as compared to Germany and the US, stressing the need to make higher education accessible to students in remote areas.

Attributing low enrolment in higher education to absence of institutes, Mukherjee said: “Seven percent of those in the 18-24 years age group enter higher education in India as compared to 21 percent in Germany and 34 per cent in the US. Increasing the reach of higher education to students, especially in remote areas, is critical to boosting the enrolment rate.”

Speaking at the 26th convocation of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Mukherjee said demand for higher education exceeds the supply.

“The density of educational institutions in India has increased from 10 to 14 institutions per 1,000 square kilometre during the 11th Plan period. But educational institutions are still absent in many places,” Mukherjee said.

He commended the IGNOU for making education available to the poor and to those who want to study for self-enrichment and to upgrade skills.

“IGNOU, in a span of 27 years, has become a pioneer for open and distance learning… It meets the education demands of 30 lakh students in India and 43 other countries through 67 regional centres, around 3,350 learner support centres and 82 overseas centres,” he said.

He praised IGNOU for generating study material for 477 learning programmes offered through 21 schools of study.

“The quality of its (IGNOU) self-learning material has been its strength, for which it was awarded the certificate of excellence by the Commonwealth of Learning. IGNOU has demonstrated that quantitative gains in terms of enrolment can be meaningfully combined with quality education,” Mukherjee said.

“IGNOU was started with a mandate of providing need-based education at different levels to all those who need it. But, it must be kept in mind that needs keep changing over time. The curriculum must reflect these changing needs and mores,” he added.

He said that continuous updating and review of existing material with new information is, therefore, absolutely essential.

President said that life long learning is an imperative in today’s demanding world.

“The higher education sector must respond to this new opportunity. As learning has no terminal point, career learners would be a new demand entity. Our universities should design programmes that assist such life long learners,” he added.

Minister of State for Human Resource Development Jitin Prasada was present on the occasion.

Addressing a gathering of students and academicians, Prasada said: “Distant learning is the future in India as there is a scarcity of land (to set up) more educational institutes in the country.”

“The combination of technology-enabled education and flexi-learning methods under open and distance education system have the potential of bringing new standards of precision and independence of thought,” he added.

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