Education has always been a top priority of the countries (both developed and developing) around the world. Unfortunately, despite gaining the title of ‘Digital World’, we are failing to provide basic education to many under-developed countries. There are many factors surrounding the poor education system in unprivileged countries. One of the factors is poverty or let’s say people cannot afford the expanse that comes along with basic as well as higher education.
Although basic education is still far away from many deserving people around the globe, the United Nations is taking all the necessary steps in reaching out to people regarding education. Apart from the efforts done by the United Nations, let’s not forget the role technology is playing in changing and shaping our lives.
The virtual universities or virtual education is not a new idea. Many people are very well-aware of the concept. Internet availability and online classes have made a long-awaited dream come true for those who could not and cannot afford conventional education due to financial restrictions. Recently, the world has been hardly hit by Coronavirus pandemic. The technology is playing a pivotal role in the current situation. Educational Institutions around the world are providing online classes to continue the educational year. This is the best example of the use of technology in today’s circumstances. Just like the rest of the world, the Government of Pakistan has taken an initiative of ‘Tele Education’ which is helping many students.
The Concept of Distance Education in Pakistan:
Anyhow, if we talk about providing Distance Education in Pakistan then the first name that clicks our mind is Allama Iqbal Open University.
Started in 1974 in Islamabad, the Allama Iqbal Open University is now the world’s fourth-largest university providing services of higher education to Pakistanis. It is important to mention that AIOU is the first Open University in Asia and second in the World which is working on the principles of Distance Learning. TheUniversity has 44 main campuses that operate on a regional level across the country including Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rahim Yar Khan, and Bahawalpur.
In a country like Pakistan where the majority of people belong to lower-middle, middle, and upper-middle-class, the presence of Allama Iqbal Open University is very crucial in serving higher education with the aim to fulfill the purpose of Distance Education.
The concept of Distance Education first emerged in the UK, in the late 60s, presented by British Prime Minister, Mr. Harold Wilson. He believed that education should reach out to all those who cannot afford a regular educational institute and those who have missed education due to early employment. He was of the view that Distance Education opens doors to upgrading knowledge and skills of those who wish to pursue further education in their free time. The Allama Iqbal Open University also inculcates Distance Learning in its policy of providing higher education to masses. Most of the beneficiaries of AIOU are females who belong to rural areas. These women face a lot of hurdles such as finances, travel, and culture, the AIUO helps them in completing education.
One of the studies conducted in June 2018 in Southern Punjab, suggests that Allama Iqbal Open University is playing an active role in promoting education among rural women in different modules.
The university is a very striking option for those who cannot leave their homes and cannot afford the expanse of a regular university. The cost-effective policy attracts more and more students annually than any other regular university across the country. The university isn’t just a game-changer for students hailing from remote areas; in fact, it has opened the doors of opportunities for working-class of Pakistan as well. For Instance, if you have a job and time doesn’t allow you to take regular classes, you can get enrolled in AIOU to complete a degree.
Here is the list of Faculties and Departments you can get enrolled in:
1. Faculty of Arabic and Islamic Studies (Est. 1974):
a) Arabic Language and Literature
b) Hadith and Seerah
c) Islamic Law (Fiqh)
d) Islamic Thought, History and Culture
e) Qur’an and Tafseer
2. Faculty of Education (Est. 1984):
a) Adult and Continuing Education
b) Distance and Non-Formal Education
c) Educational Planning and Management
d) Science Education
e) Special Education
f) Teacher Education (Elementary and Secondary)
3. Faculty of Science (Est. 1982):
a) Agricultural Sciences
e) Information Technology
f) Computer Science
g) Engineering and Technology
h) Environmental Sciences
i) Home and Health Sciences
j) Mathematics and Statistics
4. Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities (Est. 1982):
a) Business Administration
b) Management Sciences
e) English Language and Applied Linguistics
g) Iqbal Studies
h) Library and Information Sciences
i) Mass Communication
j) Pakistan Studies
k) Pakistani Languages
l) Sociology, Social Work and Population Studies
m) Gender and Women’s Studies
Apart from all these faculties and departments, the university is breaking new grounds in the fields of Professional Studies, Scientific Studies, and Technical Education. The vastness of faculties shows the trust of people aiming to gain higher education. The AIOU is putting efforts in reaching out to the remotest areas of Pakistan while meeting the challenges by harnessing technology and keeping the cost of education at a minimum.
Most of the time the question arises that whether the degree of AIOU has the same worth as any other degree from a regular university?
The answer is ‘Yes’, because Allama Iqbal Open University is recognized by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan. This validates the worth of the degree you receive after graduating from AIOU.
Some of the Salient Features of AIOU that are promoting quality education in Pakistan are:
1. Semester System which is offered twice a year i-e Spring Semester and Autumn Semester
2. The average enrollment of students is more than 1.2 million per year making it the biggest university in the country to receive such a huge number of students.
3. More than 2000 subjects are offered.
4. Being the largest publishing house in Pakistan which prints 1.8 million books yearly and many more.
Hence, the role of Allama Iqbal Open University is huge and pivotal in the progression of the education system in Pakistan.