SOL's woes show no sign of abating

SOL's woes show no sign of abating

The recent controversy surrounding Delhi University’s School of Open Learning (SOL) has brought to the fore several other issues being faced by the institute.

Following University Grants Commission’s objection to DU running two different types of degree courses – four-year-undergraduate-programme in its regular colleges and three-year courses in SOL – admissions in the latter have been stalled.

Diminishing SOL to the status of a diploma and certificate course-conferring institute is also being considered as a last resort. But officials at SOL say that ignorance and apathy towards the distance education school is not new.

Sources say that SOL is allegedly sitting on a massive bank deposit of Rs 272 crore amassed from the fee collected by students over years, but facilities for students and teachers are sorely missing.

Even basic infrastructural needs like drinking water, a functional canteen, reading rooms and reading material in the library to match the steady rise in the number of students SOL is absorbing, are not met with. 

Teachers say that no efforts have been made to modernise SOL on the lines of distance education institutes like the Indira Gandhi National Open University since the time it started in 1962, and the same can now be seen in its defunct way of operation and lack of enthusiasm amongst the staff and faculty.

A senior faculty member here, who preferred not to be named, tells Metrolife, “Year after year, every Vice Chancellor in DU has chosen to devote his full energy to the regular mode of teaching and ignore SOL. And this is when SOL happens to be DU’s cash cow, depositing Rs 50 crore with it every year from admission earnings. Even UGC has questioned DU that if this amount, Rs 272 crore, is lying with SOL, why is it not being used? But SOL continues to be treated as non-existent.” 

For this very reason, UGC does not give a penny to SOL, “You can get money only when you show expenditure,” he points out.

Teachers are also upset at the fact that nothing is being done to “develop” SOL in terms of technological tools to help it reach out to students in a better way, and this has left them “disheartened.” 

“Look at IGNOU,” says another teacher, “In keeping with the philosophy of distance education: To reach out to the unreached, they have taken to TV, radio, internet and every other means available to establish contact with students. IGNOU has its own TV channel Gyan Darshan. SOL cannot even claim to have a studio to record lectures which can then be disseminated by means of DVDs and pen drives.”

This is a minimum requirement for distance education schools these days, he adds.Another issue simmering in the teachers’ circle at SOL is the administration’s recent decision to open ‘study centres’ at different colleges, for which college principals will be paid Rs 25,000 each.

Currently, SOL has only two centres --- one in North Campus and the other in the South. Different colleges voluntarily provide their classrooms to SOL to hold its ‘Personal Contact Programmes’ with students on the weekends. Now, SOL is planning to pay college principals for the job of ‘coordinating external teachers’ which has so far been done by SOL’s own teachers for a small remuneration. 

A faculty member rued, “Will the college principals know better than us the requirements of our students?”

On the other hand, a half-an-acre plot of land given to SOL by the Delhi Development Authority in Tahirpur, East Delhi, for a token amount of Re 1, lies unused and wasted. 

“You should see the serpentine queues of students outside our North Campus centre during admissions. If this land had been developed into a centre, it could have catered to our massive number of students in that part of the city. Instead, now, this money will now be distributed among college principals,” a teacher laments. 

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