Access and Equity: A Study of Selected IGNOU Programmes
The Open Distance Learning (ODL) system has emerged as a dynamic system of education offering immense educational opportunities. It serves the learners overcoming the different barriers of caste, creed, and urban/rural/tribal differences. The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), as a pioneer of the ODL system, champions the cause of accessibility, and reaches out to the unreached who belong to diverse cultures, religions, traditions and ethnicity, senior citizens, and prisoners, all who either wish to update themselves or wish to rejoin the mainstream through education. Thus, IGNOU caters to a large number of learners who are left unserved by the formal system, and also to those who are located in remote areas. As the main motto of IGNOU is to reach the unreached,
it becomes essential to conduct a study on the accessibility of the University to its learners, and its reach to the various sections of the society to provide them equitable learning opportunities. Therefore, this study was conducted with the aim to analyze (i) IGNOU's accessibility to the learners, in terms of the trend of enrollment, over recent five years across IGNOU's eight flagship programmes, and (ii) IGNOU's reach to different sections of society and its facilitation of equitable educational opportunities. The study is based on qualitative and quantitative secondary data for a period of five years from 2010 to 2014. For this study, two programmes from each qualification category, namely Masters, Bachelors, Diploma and Certificate have been selected. These programmes were studied based on the following criteria of learners, namely total number of enrollment; gender field i.e., the number of males and females; area wise classification, i.e., urban, rural and tribal; and category-wise classification namely general, other backward classes (OBC), scheduled castes (SC), and scheduled tribes (ST). After analysing the findings, it has been suggested that it would be essential to focus on strategies for ensuring accessibility and acceptability also.