Empowerment of Marginalized Communities: Role of ODL in India

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF5 Sub-theme: Governance and social justice // The development of any nation depends on its educational system and it is proved that education is the key to human progress and social change. Education is a powerful tool for empowerment of individual. It helps in developing confidence in individual and community about their own capacities, inherent strengths to shape their lives and thus enhance the inner strengthintellectual, political, social and economic against oppression, exclusion and discrimination. // Empowerment is the enhancement of the political, social, economic or spiritual strength of individuals and communities. Empowerment envelops developing and building capacities of individuals, communities to make them part of the main stream society. Education is the means by which societies have been known in history, to grow out of oppression to democratic participation and involvement. It is a powerful tool for empowerment of individual. It is intrinsic to human personality. It carries both intrinsic as well as instrumental values. // If look back in to the history of India, education was never in reach of its entire people. Unequal access to education has been rampent in India. Discriminatory order in the caste system has been instrumental in perpetuating this. Over the generations one section of the society were enjoyed the fruits of the education and remaining majority of Indian communities particularly marginalized sections like Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), Other Backward Classes (OBC), Religious Minorities and Women were denied the opportunity. Right since Jotirao Phule, Narayan Guru, early education movements to present day, education campaigns all are non-Brahmin in origin and they strongly believe that ‘education is enlightenment and enlightenment is empowerment’. It helps to make for a better future society. // Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (1989) recognized the importance of education in shaping the future and cautioned the under-privileged not to lose any opportunity to get that right, and said "We may forego material benefits, but we cannot forego our right and opportunities to reap the benefit of the highest education to the fullest extent." He put all his efforts to guarantee the educational opportunities without any discrimination to all the citizens of independent India. But after 57 years of its implementation, political order and the ruling elite of this country could not succeed in providing access to the “right to education” to its people. // In this background the paper briefly touches the present scenario of Higher Education in the context of globalization and examines the role of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) system in democratizing the education in India. The paper further assesses the impact of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Open University, the first Open University in India in terms of empowering the learners in expanding their livelihoods. The study is based on the periodical review reports of the University and field based research done by the Center for Social Empowerment of the University, where the researcher is associated. // Paper ID 534