From Access to Empowerment: Championing Higher Education as a Human Right

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By Rohit Gupta, Co-founder & COO, College Vidya

The International Human Rights Day, celebrated on 10th December each year, is a celebration of human rights all across the planet and a commemoration of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in 1948 on the same day. The day marks an important modern milestone celebrating humanity and the efforts put in to safeguard and further the interests of humankind. 

Central to the globally recognized rights that humans from all races have is the right to equality and justice. The theme for International Human Rights Day, 2023 as announced by the United Nations–” Freedom, Equality and Justice for All”, mirrors the same sentiment. Equality and justice mandate that the well-being of all individuals be prioritized and every person be treated fairly and equally. In the modern capitalistic world marked by rampant rifts between the distribution of advantages and disadvantages, the basis of the rights to equality and justice comes under scrutiny. While masses protest for their basic rights such as the right to equality, freedom, justice, education, etc., there continue to be practices unfair to many groups. 

In a world still marked by such inequalities, the right to have access to resources takes center stage. Such resources (beyond the monetary and materialistic resources) include access to quality education, an aspect often emphasized but still far from its desired state. In the case of nations like India, where development is still a work in progress, educational rights are crucial for the achievement of its long-term goals of literacy, employability, sustainability, and growth. 

When it comes to the right to education for all, the Indian state also takes cognizance of the vast gap that needs to be filled for the educational needs of the country to achieve its goals of development and the vision of creating a well-trained and strong workforce for the future. Beyond the instrumentality of the matter, there is a steadfast focus on education as a basic right, both at the elementary and higher levels. 

The National Education Policy (2020) of India identifies the long journey that India is to traverse to strengthen the higher educational services in the country to reach the goals of a 50% gross enrollment ratio and higher literacy rates. However, the path to this goal is far from a simple one–being blocked by various setbacks at the individual and institutional levels. While several challenges are faced by students in the path of pursuing higher educational studies (financial constraints, lack of institutions in the vicinity, lack of inspirational educators, familial or personal constraints, and more), setbacks at the institutional and administrative levels are also prevalent (for instance, lack of institutions for accommodating the large population of students in India, lack of sufficient resources and infrastructural support and so on). 

The identification of such problems and roadblocks that stand in the way of making the Right to Education a reality for learners in the nation has provided impetus to the continuous strife by the government and the educational institutions of the country to develop novel and innovative solutions catering to educational needs of a nation like India. 

The strong emphasis laid on digitalization in India in the past decade has provided a thrust to the development of educational services. In addition to strengthening the conventional options for higher studies in India, the novel options and educational services being supported and offered in the country can pave the way for greater literacy in India, providing much-needed upward mobility. A pioneering development in this context is the mainstreaming of online educational services in the country, which has been recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC) as a valid and credible educational mode equivalent to the regular learning mode. 

Online educational courses and institutions have sprung up mainly in response to the coronavirus pandemic that impacted the nation in 2020 and has since seen an exponential growth rate. Central to the growing popularity of the mode of learning is the variety of common setbacks to education that it addresses–it is an affordable mode of learning, thereby providing the chance to pursue higher studies to a larger section of the Indian population. It does not require the student to uproot their residence to travel to a new city, as they can access the course material from any location of their choice, bringing the world of elite educational services to their screen and their disposal. Furthermore, online education as a mode of study enables the learner to take up a course alongside any other personal professional commitment, an important step forward in the continuation of education and curbing dropout rates.  The flexibility inherent in online education, concerning time, attendance, and learning services further contributes in this direction. 

In addition to the problem that virtual learning can solve at the learner’s level, it helps to tackle a number of challenges at the governmental and institutional levels. For instance, it addresses the problem of the lack of sufficient institutions in the country to accommodate the large population of learners in India. It addresses the concern for limited faculty for higher studies as well as the infrastructural resources needed to provide quality higher educational services to the masses in India. 

Thus, in all its characteristics as a higher educational service, online learning mode comes forth as a contributor to democratizing access to further studies for a larger number of students. It provides access to higher educational resources to a larger number of students from all sections of society on an equitable basis. By addressing the diverse needs and challenges that these students might face in the case of regular education, online education provides a convenient choice to these learners, thus enhancing fair access to education in the country. It helps to fill the void in the Indian milieu of higher studies and enrollment rates of students and contributes to the vision of creating an employable, well-educated, and responsible workforce in the country. 

Empowering in its very nature, the online mode of learning shines through as a mode of learning that can provide independence to students and the agency to integrate their decision to pursue higher studies with their life circumstances, thus furthering the causes of justice and fairness in access to education.

At College Vidya, we identify the potential that online education has for transforming the landscape of higher education in India. However, we are cognizant of the challenges that students might face while deciding about their higher education from an online learning institution and the prevalent profiteering practices that exist in many educational institutions in the current times. With the vision and mission to make education accessible for all and enable students to select the course suited best to their unique needs, our services are tailored to meet the diverse needs that students bring to the table.

College Vidya stands in solidarity with the vision of democratizing higher studies as described in the NEP 2020 as well as in safeguarding the interests of students and furthering their educational well-being. In this attempt, we bring to students a host of online learning courses, to provide them the choice of selecting one best suited for their unique learning needs, much like an “Amazon” in online education. Our counseling services, post-admission services, alumni connect facilities and informational support features are all tailored to provide the most seamless, holistic, and fruitful learning experience to students from all backgrounds, thus breaking the cycle of helplessness that students face due to lack of expert guidance and unbiased, equitable support. 

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On a finishing note, while the path to maximizing enrolments in higher education is surely marked by challenges and setbacks for India, multiple initiatives and innovative solutions are popping up in the modern educational landscape to provide the maximum benefits to students and ensure that every learner in the country gets the opportunity to learn, educate themselves and work towards greater self-enhancement, accomplishment and growth, a fundamental right for every citizen. 

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