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IGNOU Shimla Study Centre at Education Department, HP University: Maintaining ethical standards in education

The Himachal Pradesh University was founded on July 22, 1970.
The University firmly believes in what India’s first Prime Minister Jawahar Lal
Nehru said, “A University stands for humanism, for tolerance, for region, for
progress, for the adventure of ideas and for the search for truth. It stands
for the onward march of the human race towards even higher”. With these
inspiring verses, the University planned to support education of the educators.
Along with the conventional education system in Education, the university
planned to associate itself with IGNOU, the people’s university, for spreading
education at the grass root level especially in state of Himachal Pradesh.
Thus, IGNOU Study Centre within the premises of the Education Department, HP
University was established in the year 2000 to facilitate the teacher education
to the learners from the far flung areas.

Prof. Badwal joined IGNOU in the year
1981 and has been associated with the study centre since then. He is presently
heading the study centre as the coordinator. He joined HP University as a
student in 1976 and later became an educationist at the Department of Education
in 1981. He has been the Dean of Education Department twice after becoming the
Professor in 1998.

As the Study Centre Coordinator he said, there have been
several innovative practices which have been followed at the centre. The
landmark amongst them, according to him, was the practice of arranging
counselling sessions. He further explained by saying that, “In the initial
stages when the study centre was established, we used to conduct regular
counselling for our learners on Sundays”. But as a coordinator he later
realised that not many learners were attending these scheduled counselling. The
basic reason, he realised, for this unusual trend was due to the fact that
learners used to come for just one counselling on Sundays from far flung areas.
Soon, he said, “we started noticing a drastic fall in the attendance. It was
then decided and planned that the prescribed ten Sundays’ counselling sessions
can be clubbed together on the gazetted holidays which would avoid learners’
effort to come for just one session on every Sunday”. “This new practise helped
learners who were mostly in-service teachers”, he added. Thus, 5 days
counselling session conducted twice an academic session catapulted the
attendance again to a whopping 75 to 85 percent, considering that the
attendance for these counselling sessions are not compulsory. Therefore, he
said, after noticing this success, other study centres too started adopting the
similar practise across Himachal Pradesh.

Apart from the regular course schedule, Prof. Badwal said
that he introduced interactive sessions, debates, declamation programmes, group
discussions, panel discussion etc. to keep his learners abreast with the latest
trends of teaching and its requirements. The participation, according to the
coordinator, is compulsory for all the learners in these workshop activities
which are conducted in each session by the study centre. He further informed
that during learners’ academic programmes, they are also given the research
topics by the counsellors to avoid plagiarism. The centre also provides every
support to its learners in their research works along with the HP University
library facility which is available to IGNOU learners on demand. But despite of
such innovative practices, he said, the counsellors do face some problems as
the counselling are only doubt clarification classes but the learners still
insist for regular class room teaching and expect counsellors to teach them
word by word.

As a coordinator he feels that the study material is
absolutely sufficient for the learners but barriers which the learners often
face is primarily in the language or the medium of the study material. The learners
often share that the translation of the study material in Hindi is difficult to
understand because of it being literally translated. Prof. Badwal also believes
that there is a psychological barrier which is predominant amongst the students
of this region. Students mostly study in English medium till their graduation
but still carry a psychological fear or phobia while communicating in English.
Despite of the fact that the study materials are also available in English, he
said, they still prefer to choose Hindi as the medium of instruction. He said
that in order to solve this problem the counsellors make every effort to
provide learners with some content in Hindi language which is easier for them
to understand.

Prof. Badwal also holds high regard for the Regional Centre
which has been extremely helpful in administrative and academic assistance. The
Regional Centre, he said, does not create any unwanted interference in the
administrative workings but rather plays a role of anchoring the ship. He added
by saying that with the constant guidance of the Regional Director the study
centre has performed well over the past.
He feels the work of all the staff members at the Regional Centre is
extremely efficient and highly commendable. He believes that the teaching and
research standards in the nation needs to be improved not just in the ODL mode
but in conventional medium as well. He expressed his disappointment regarding
the fabrication and manipulation of the results and internal assessments which
are offered by the colleges in various educational and vocational courses. He
holds the view that a standardised practise of evaluation should be adhered for
a transparent educational system in India.

by Ezra John

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