In the urban landscape, the relatively well-off students are so used to the idea of studying in schools, followed by universities/colleges that the concept of a correspondence course is bound to strike them awkward and alien. Distance education would probably be deemed by them a notch lower than face to face education. I regret to admit it, but I was a part of this thought process till the time I delved into the reasons which could possibly have given birth to the concept of distance education, particularly in the Indian context.
The coining of the very term implies that there must have been and our country continues to face a lack of resources, facilities and infrastructure, in order to provide each and every child with face to face education. Thus the idea of distance education comes: a modality which permits the delivery of didactic media without the necessity of regular class participation or face-to-face interaction, where ultimately, the individual is responsible for his own learning. The aim is to develop the same individual who might have been instructed in the regular university.
However, to educate is to learn and teach; instruction rests on an intellectual level and formative education blends into a personality development, manifesting in a students’ overall behavior. Within this line of thinking, distance education merely educates at a distance as opposed to face-to-face. At the same time, for a country like India where we are yet to have primary schools with proper faculty, where gender prejudices continue to exist preventing girls from going to study in schools, distance education through correspondence courses is a lifesaver. It really is a something is better than nothing situation for such cases.
However, considering distance education equivalent simply to correspondence courses would be a highly limiting perspective. Distance education has undergone quite an evolution in terms of its definition, methods and delivery tools. With globalization furthering the need for greater continuing education, its significance is emerging widely in the higher education sector. Moreover, the permeability of the Internet has compelled Educational Transformation by Educators and reconstruct methods providing greater access, in order to facilitate quality learning for the ever-increasing student population.
But as of now, we have to accept that distance education is still considered an alternative to regular classes. It is more of an option which is taken due to unavailability of the choice of taking regular classes. By that, I don't intend to claim that face to face education system doesn't have its flaws. What we need to understand is that the need of the hour is to evolve and develop an education system that does not rely merely on teaching or instruction. Education involves social and cultural learning, combined as an independent act of an individual and of an interaction with his or her peers. Also, our education needs to prepare people for the future, and the future always implies uncertainty, which can't be grappled with only by an exercise of memory by studying problems that have already been solved.
Thus, be it distance or face to face mode, institutions which promote learning through experience and produce thinking individuals ultimately are the ones fulfilling the aim of education.
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