On a clean-up drive

On a clean-up drive


On a clean-up drive

  Prof Chambi Puranik says CCTV and video coverage of study centres will prevent malpractices like copying.Bangalore University is in the news again. And this time, it’s the alleged mass copying  by the students of the Directorate of Correspondence Courses and Distance Education (DCC&CE), which made headlines recently.

Vice Chancellor Dr N Prabhu Dev has set up a committee, headed by Prof Chambi Puranik, former acting vice chancellor of Karnataka State Open University and Member of Distance Education Council, to go into the problems plaguing the study centres and  recommend solutions.

 Edited excerpts from the interview with Prof Chambi Puranik.

The committee, which you head, has visited all 29 centres set up by the Bangalore University in Karnataka. What are your impressions?

We found that barring three or four study centres, most do not have a building of their own. They look like stalls or makeshift shops! Registering or admitting/enrolling of candidates happens in these ‘stalls’, contact classes are held elsewhere by renting premises and examinations are conducted in yet another place! A study centre in Chamarajapet in Bangalore is located between a telephone booth and a hair cutting saloon, and the contact classes are held in a primary school. The conditions in 20 study centres were so pathetic that we had to give them ‘C’ rating, which is below average  according to DEC norms.

What about the quality of the learning material provided to the students?

A study centre should offer student support service to a distance learner in terms of counselling, 14-18 hours of actual teaching for the entire year and self learning materials (SLM). We found that 99 per cent of lessons provided do not fit into the distance learning scheme of things. In several centres, we found that there were no libraries. Many of them use guides/bazaar notes. For a 20-mark question, the notes given to students had hardly 10-14 lines of text. One publisher has even used Bangalore University’s name on his book, giving an impression to the buyer/reader that it is printed in the university. Some publishers are making huge profits in the process. Besides, study materials are not revised or updated. Even the mistakes are repeated year after year.

What about the allegation that degrees are up for sale?

The nexus between the DCC&DE management and those running the study centres is clearly visible. Those who run the study centres have turned it into a money spinning business. The fees they collect is much higher than that stipulated by Bangalore University. Yes, degrees are available for a price. And this is the root cause for shameful practices like mass copying.

Are you saying that the contact programmes have become a farce? What about the role of the teachers?

Most of the teachers are ill-equipped. They are not trained in the art of teaching distance learning courses. Naturally, the contact programmes have become a farce. I was very sad to hear from the teachers that they were being paid Rs 75 to Rs 150 for an hour for teaching while the university has fixed the payment at Rs 250 an hour. The committee also found that sharing of fees from 50:50 ratio has been changed to 60:40 (60 per cent to the university and 40 per cent to the study centre).

How is the fee collected by the university, through its distance learning courses, being used?

The university earns Rs 10 crore to Rs 14 crore every year through its distance learning programmes. But it spends less than Rs 2 crore for all the activities of the study centres.

What recommendations have you made?

The committee has suggested the following steps:

*Study centres should be set up only if they are affiliated colleges of a university in Karnataka.

The motive should be to extend a service to the students rather than exploit them. We should make sure that public confidence in study centres is not lost.

*A Memorandum of Understanding for a period of three years should be entered into between the Bangalore University and the study centres.

*A study centre should have a minimum enrolment of 50 students for PG courses and 100 for UG courses, with a maximum enrollment of 1000 students. If more students are to be registered, the university should visit the study centre before permission is granted.

*The university should not grant permission for more than one study centre within a radius of 50 km. However, this rule may be relaxed in the case of Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Hubli-Dharwad, Belgaum and Gulbarga.

*In Bangalore, the DCC&DE should also offer courses independently and conduct them at the Central College campus, utilising available infrastructure.

*To make the examination system transparent, the study centre should arrange for CCTV/video coverage of examination centres/halls. It submit the original prints/records to the Directorate immediately after the end of examination, every day.

Are you confident that the system can be cleaned up?

It has to be done. According to the UNESCO document on sustainable development, distance learning has a big role to play in providing education to the youth between 18-35 years. By 2020, if the country has to achieve 14 per cent growth in higher education, we certainly need qualified and reputed distance education providers.

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