Dr. Mirza Tariq Beg is Professor and Head, Department of Electronics and Communication Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Jamia Millia Islamia. He is also Honorary Director, Arjun Singh Center for Distance and Open Learning, Jamia Millia Islamia. Dr. Beg recently talked to Mohammad Aleem, Managing Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper IndianMuslimObserver.com in an extensive interview about the predominant role open learning and distance education have to play in the evolving technological transformation and sea changes that this world is currently witnessing.
Dr. Beg says that Jamia Millia Islamia has acknowlwdged this and established Arjun Singh Center for Distance and Open Learning in 2002 with the sole purpose to bridge the gap of traditional mode of education and distance mode of education. Distance education is here to help all students who are unable to get quality education through traditional mode of education due to many reasons. It could be logistic or academic. Those who could not get good education from schools, here is the second chance to build their career once again. It offers huge opportunities. Getting admission in graduate courses in top colleges in big cities has become an uphill task today. The cut off lists go to 95 and 99 and also up to 100 percent. Dr. Beg rightly asks how many students can get admission by that way? What about the others who get 80 percent and less? Are they useless? Should they be denied education completely? Have they no right to educate themselves? No, they have every right to get educated and get the jobs as their other counterparts.
Providing details about Arjun Singh Center for Distance and Open Learning, Dr. Mirza Tariq Beg said that the center was established in 2002 and runs 21 programs, duly approved by joint committee of DEC, AICTE, UGC/NCTE. B.Ed, B.Com, MA in Human resource management, Post graduated Diploma in Geo-informatics, Post Graduate Diploma in Guidance and Counseling are some of the popular courses offered by the center. For details, readers are advised to visit the website of the university, http://jmi.ac.in/
Here are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: Tell us something about yourself first and also about Arjun Singh Center for Distance and Open Learning, which yiou currently head as its Honorary Ditector?
Ans: I joined Jamia 27 years ago as a lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering and Technology. At present, I am heading the Department of Electronics and Communications; in addition, I am also holding the responsibility of Distance Learning Centre as an Honorary Director. I have also served for five years at the King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, which is one of the top universities in the world. It also holds 129th position in world ranking.
I did my education from Aligarh Muslim University in Electronics Engineering. I did my Master from Delhi University in Micro Engineering and my PhD from Jamia Millia Islamia.
The Arjun Singh Center for Distance and Open Learning came into existence in 2002. The purpose of establishing this centre was to bridge the gap of traditional mode of education and distance mode of education. Our country is very large in terms of population, and also geographical wise it is quite big. We do not have such resources to open the university at each and every point. We are extremely short of the universities. We also do not have sufficient physical infrastructure. Distance mode is a new mode which can overcome these problems. So, Jamia thought that we should also exploit it as the part of nation building and educational policy. Being a central university, we try and follow and fulfill all requirements. Therefore, distance mode will help all students who are unable to get the education through traditional mode of education due to many reasons. Reason could be logistic. There may be that they live in far away places. It could be academic. For example, if they could not got good education from schools, but if they want the second chance to build their career, then, for such students it offer huge opportunities. In top colleges of the city, getting admission in graduate courses has become an uphill task, the cut off lists go to 95 and 99 and also up to 100 percent. How many students can get admission by that way? What about others who get 80 percent and less? Are they useless? Should they be denied education completely? Have they no right to educate themselves? No, they have every right to get educated and get the jobs as their other counterparts.
Q: How many courses do you offer through your center?
Ans: We offer more than 21 courses and nine are at master level, including MA in Education and M.Com. Then, we have got MA in Hindi, English, Sociology, Management, Public Administration; we have also offered B.Ed which is our flagship program. And we have Bachelor of Arts, BA General, B.Com, BIBF, Bachelor of National Business and Finance, Bachelor of Business Studies, PG Diplomas, in guidance and counseling and we have post PG Diploma in Geo-informatics. This is particularly a job oriented course. Geo-informatics is an upcoming field. There is huge amount of pent up demand. Our pass outs can get observed as an employee in Geological Survey of India and other Private organizations. They can go to the companies like refineries and all others which are operating in this area. There is a good scope for this course. We have also opened a new center for it at Dwarka. We have good lab and a good infrastructure. Students have to use those labs as it is requisite and very much attached with their program of studies. We provide labs also to the students of Power Engineering.
Q: Those students, who live far from Delhi, how can they avail these types of facilities offered with such courses?
Ans: The distance mode of education is different from the correspondence mode of education. They have to use these facilities to complete their courses. It is essential.
Q: What is the difference between your center and IGNOU?
Ans: There is not much difference. We are working on almost the same pattern. The difference is that IGNOU is exclusively a university which focuses on the distance mode of education and Jamia, on the other hand, works as a traditional university also. IGNOU was started much earlier than ours. And they have expanded at a vast level. We are also trying to expand ourselves, but to certain limit because we would also like to maintain the standard also.
Q: Those students who get degrees from the center like yours, are less in value in respect of those degrees which get procured through the traditional mode of education?
Ans: No, not at all. They carry the same value and importance. They can sit in competitive examinations like others. They can get jobs. In fact, we are trying for the campus selection of jobs for our students also. UGC is very strict and they are coming out with a draft policy so any lacuna and malpractices could be removed from the system completely.
Jamia has brand equity and we are not going to dilute it in any way. We follow the strict rules of examination and evaluation. So, such prejudices that these degrees come easily vanishe away when they see our mode of working and the way of evaluation of our every student.
Q: How do you ensure that you give quality education? It is not just for the sake of distributing degrees?
Ans: It is not for the sake of distributing degrees only. We also offer study centers to only those colleges and institutions which command good respect in their own fields. We don’t mindlessly expand ourselves where the requisite check and balance are not in place. Monitoring is done continuously. It is not a correspondence mode of education. It is distance mode. Students have to come for counseling. They have opportunity to directly interact with the faculty members and alley their doubts. We also arrange classes for them on Saturday and Sunday.
We try to maintain the same standard, be it teaching, examination and evaluation. We are same as the traditional mode of education.
Q: What are the most sought after courses which draw attention of the students towards your center?
Ans: Of course the flagship program as B.Ed, because it is job oriented. The other courses which have been offered here are also popular like Post graduate diploma in Guidance and Counseling, then, we have M.Com courses and M.A in HRM. We are also planning to introduce some new courses which will be job oriented. We have also BIBF and BBS. All these courses are very popular.
Q: You use the same study materials which have been prepared by IGNOU. Why don’t you prepare your own study materials?
Ans: It is not the same in all courses, but, yes, in majority of courses we use their materials. This is comparatively a new center. And initially, there was shortage of staff. And still it is. But, we are trying to prepare our own materials. And I want to assure you that from the next coming session, we will be able to use our own study materials prepared by our experts and teaching staffs.
Q: Kindly tell us, how many students you get enrolled every year?
Ans: This is rising day by day. We used to enroll 1300 to 1400 students every year from all over India. But, the last year, it jumped to 3500. I am hoping to get double and may it go to ten thousand in a couple of years.
Q: What future do you see this mode of education in India?
Ans: Future is in the distance mode, with integrating technology into it. Technology means, we use the web, and we use the distance mode. So, if all of these come together, we will have huge potentialities.
Q: You have visited abroad. In what respect, our mode of distance learning is different from their distance mode of education?
Ans: In those countries which are small in population, they don’t need such mode of education. But in other countries which need it, they have been doing it for the last many years quite successfully like UK and America. We need to change the perception completely that the degrees acquired through the distance mode is not less in value in any way from the traditional mode of education.
We are helping the good colleges and institutions to open the new study centers so our reach could be maximized. We have recently opened new centers in the states like Kerala and Karnataka. But, we do try to follow strict rules and guidelines and on the basis of thorough evaluation by our experts, we grant permission to open any new centre. It is not so that anybody and any institution can get our study centers just for the sake of getting it. We have gone to Bangalore, Patna and other eastern states. We regularly monitor these centers so the proper check and balance could be maintained.
We open any center with the condition of one year initially. If we find their work satisfactory, then we grant our permission to extend it further.
Q: What is the difference between the distance mode of education and correspondence mode of education, because it looks quite confusing?
Ans: Both are quite apart from each other. The correspondence mode of education doesn’t engage their students as we do. We offer classes, lab facilities, faculty interaction on the regular basis, and conduct examinations as a regular mode of examinations. But, in the correspondence mode of education, students just get the study materials, prepare it on their own and give examinations on web and through such other means. There are no any check and balance to ensure quality of education. We are planning to introduce online lectures for our students also.
Q: If a person gets MA degrees from your center, he or she can also pursue for the higher degrees like M.Phil and PhD from any university?
Ans: Yes, surely. They will not be discriminated at all. And, why should they be discriminated. Our one of students who has obtained an MA in Public Administration degree has been selected for the IAS this year. And it is good example for others also.
Q: In what way you are benefiting the Muslim community?
Ans: This is a minority institution and 50 percent seats are reserved for the minority students.
[Mohammad Aleem is Managing Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper IndianMuslimObserver.com]