P. Vasantha Kumari

Since the “National Adult Education Programme” was launched in India in 1978, adult education departments have been set up at over 93 universities, offering a variety of programmes. The University Grants Commission (UGC) has played a key role in the development of guidelines and adult education programmes. On the premise that “university education” in India inevitably embraces both preparation for working life and lifelong learning in a constantly changing society, the author makes proposals for the goals, target groups and contents of such programmes. Dr. P. Vasantha Kumari works as Assistant Director/Associate Professor in the Department of Adult Education, S.V. University, Tirupati.

Adult / Continuing Education in Indian Universities

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has played a key role in shaping the character of University Adult Education in India since the launching of the National Adult Education Programme in 1978. During the last two decades, the UGC has not only formulated a number of guidelines on adult continuing education programmes, but has also provided one hundred per cent funding support to universities to implement the programmes. Today as many as 93 universities have set up Adult Education Departments and they have implemented a variety of programmes.

University Education in India is identified with the preparation of people for professional work. Today it needs to be examined whether the initial training and preparation of young people for occupations of professional level is all that universities need to do. In an ever changing society which grows complex and mysterious at every turn of the year, professionals need guidance and illumination almost throughout their careers.

The scientific and technological growth in India and the nation, and the resolve to upgrade levels of living in our rural areas have necessitated the acceptance and operationalisation of a culture of lifelong education. Individuals and groups need to be continuously galvanised into developmental action through a process of periodic updating of their knowledge and skills, a better understanding of their work environment and living and its challenges, and adaptation of innovative behavioural practices. The Educational Policy Perspective recently circulated by the Government of India visualises a lifelong learning society.

The present schemes of the University Grants Commission under its Continuing Education Programmes offer an excellent opportunity to institutions of higher education to extend their physical and technocratic resources to all segments of the community in their area in the form of short-term need-based educational programmes. Continuing Education is thus low-cost educational provision deriving its support from the existing infrastructure in the institutions of higher education. It requires an innovative approach to target group identification, assessment of their needs, formulation of educational programmes, choice of innovative instructional methodologies, low-cost financial management strategies and ongoing feedback mechanisms.

The UGC guideline on Adult/Continuing Education emphasises that the universities and the colleges must become sensitive to the learning needs of the community and respond to the same through relevant learning programmes and tools.


The programmes of Continuing Education should include objectives such as, to

  1. enable the universities to establish the necessary linkages with the community
  2. enrich higher education by integrating continuing and adult education programmes and extension work in the system
  3. provide opportunities for disseminating knowledge in all walks of life
  4. cater to the self needs of all sections of society but specially to the needs of the less privileged and underprivileged sections
  5. provide an opportunity to the faculty and the students for field experiences through faculty and student participation in extension research in selected areas in relation to major problems of development in cooperation with government

This programme can be conceived in four major categories:

  1. awareness and development of general interest in contemporary affairs
  2. imparting functional literacy and numeracy, post-literacy and supplementary education through non-formal programmes
  3. imparting and improving professional skills through special training
  4. developing curricular linkages between field work and action

The target groups belonging to the less privileged and underprivileged sections of the society may include women, in particular women of rural and slum areas, Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, drop-outs, unemployed and out of school youth, handicapped workers in the unorganised sectors, workers in organised sectors, teachers and handicapped children and university students from underprivileged rural groups and slums.

Thrust Areas

The UGC has suggested thrust areas to receive priority in the Ninth Plan:

  1. development of vocational skills and professional competences among technical, marginal and professional, industrial and unemployed youth through inservice programmes
  2. arrangements for remedial and bridge courses and programmes for students from urban slums, rural areas, tribal areas, handicapped and other weaker sections
  3. conduct of pre-examination training and entry to professional and technical courses
  4. promotion of activities for general self-employment and self-reliance
  5. identification and organisation of needs-based instructional programmes for community development
  6. training and extension packages for functionaries of various social development programmes such as population education, legal literacy, science for the people, environmental education, rural development and peace education etc.

Operational Strategy

The following eightfold operational strategy is adopted:

1. Programme for Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes and Backward Classes

At university level they need pre-examination coaching for various competitive examinations. The Ministry of Social Welfare is operating a number of schemes for the welfare of these sections of society.

2. Continuing Education for Women

It is for the benefit of women to cover a wide spectrum such as home science courses, nutrition, health and hygiene and child welfare, economic development and courses in contemporary social cultural awareness.

3. Workers Education

In this, workers may be of two categories: (i) Illiterate and semi-literate workers, including unskilled and semi-skilled workers like masons, carpenters, barbers, bus and taxi drivers, transport workers, paramedical staff, class-iv employees etc. (ii) Literate workers, including teachers of all categories, ministerial staff in offices, officers of all categories, and skilled technicians and administrators. They need regular staff development courses to enhance their skill and efficiency in their day to day work.

4. Continuing Education for Professionals

5. Continuing Education for Business Executives

6. Continuing Education for School Dropouts and Unemployed Youth

Continuing Education for school dropouts would facilitate their entry into the national development mainstream. The problem can be tackled by organising job oriented bridge and remedial courses and well planned career counselling efforts.

7. Programme for Slum Dwellers and Migrant Workers

The migrant workers and slum dwellers constitute the bulk of the weaker section of the society. These sections live in miserable conditions. To this section, besides basic literacy and numeracy, awareness regarding health and hygiene, labour laws, the environment, economic opportunities, social development benefits, etc. will be extremely critical.

8. Social Development Education for all Citizens

The complexity of modern urban life requires of each individual a large number of roles and skills as parents, members of a neighbourhood, residents of a city, citizens of a nation and the world, and above all as integral parts of the ecological system. Programmes for children’s education, area development, environmental education, legal literacy, national integration and global brotherhood, etc., may be organised.

For this purpose the following areas are adopted in the Ninth Plan:

  1. training of personnel in each university and its colleges in the methodology of continuing education programmes with a view to their acquiring knowledge and skills
  2. preparation of a handbook on Continuing Education
  3. development of a course bank stating titles of courses, courses, course content, management strategy, instructional methodology and feedback mechanisms
  4. setting up of a monitoring mechanism to monitor the growth of continuing education as related to area development and national development needs
  5. developing learning materials (print and audio-visual)
  6. Institution of teachers’ fellowships to enable teachers to devote their time to the development and management of continuing education programmes
  7. encouragement to research in the area of Continuing Education
  8. setting up of institution based and community based evaluation studies in this area
  9. development of a series of films

Pattern of Financial Assistance in the Ninth Plan

UGC is providing financial assistance for this purpose at university, college and community level. This has been in the form of staff inputs and programme inputs and some non-recurring infrastructural inputs in the Department of Adult/Continuing Education.

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