Can Open and Distance Education bring Social Justice to the Weaker Sections of the Society: A Case Study on Directorate of Distance Education, University of North Bengal, West Bengal, India
Education, among all the forces and factors that influence in provisioning social justice, emerges strong as it creates social awareness that further leads to the realization by the individual for greater opportunities in social life. Open and Distance Learning (ODL), which is a non contiguous form of study, affords a learner the flexibility of study, independent of time and space (Jegede, Barry & Fisher 1995). By virtue of this intrinsic characteristics, ODL has immense potential that can be harnessed to promote higher education by first lowering social, cultural, perceptual and economic barriers and then leveraging the incremental quantum of educated individuals to foster socio-economic growth. Having ensured easy access to higher education and creating equitable opportunities for provision and recognition of lifelong learning, ODL can further contribute significantly to social justice through capacity building that would add considerably towards poverty alleviation and sustainable development. As participants of ODL programs are usually individuals who are motivated to enrich themselves, their knowledge and skills can be further harnessed for sustainable development of the societies, which otherwise would not have been possible in a formal, regular learning framework. The National Policy on Education (GOI 1986) places a special thrust on Distance Education by prioritizing life-long education as a cherished goal of the educational process.