TODAY -

Community colleges

Th Joychandra *

Building of D.M. College Of Science, Imphal in April 2012
Building of D.M. College Of Science, Imphal in April 2012 :: Pix - Bunti Phurailatpam



It was about twenty-eight years ago in 1986 that I in my humble and private capacity made a proposal to the then Govt. of Manipur to set up a Community College in Manipur just on my return from the USA after a detailed study of the working of a few Community Colleges there. I still remember how the then Hon'ble Minister of Education taunted me that I could not bring USA to Manipur.

Now, I am glad to learn that the Government of Manipur has recently set up, or decided to set up, two Community Colleges - one at Churachandpur College and another at D.M. College. But the idea of setting up Community Colleges within existing degree colleges is not within my comprehension. Community Colleges in the USA are independent junior colleges with transfer programs to traditional degree colleges if desired by a student.

The wave of community colleges which arose out of junior colleges in the 1960s in the USA is doing a great service to the American community. The transfer programs make the community colleges sharply distinguished from polytechnics and ITI's in India. Many of the courses in the community colleges can be taken at low cost. In the United States, where higher education is extremely costly, community colleges are doing a great deal in giving general education and vocational education to the common mass at a low cost. Distance education carried out in the community colleges with the help of television networks is really encouraging. The system brings education to the door of even a distant villager.

As selected by the United States Educational Foundation in India (USEFI) and the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) of Washington in 1986, I had the opportunity to visit a number of Community Colleges and a few Universities in the USA. In particular, I had in-depth study of the working of the Kirwood Community College in Iowa, the Dallas County Community College in Texas and the Broward Community College in Florida. I should like to share my views for setting up community colleges in Manipur in a small scale to begin with and on a trial basis. Expansion may be thought of later.

Most of the colleges in Manipur are meant for teaching traditional courses aimed at giving traditional degrees to students. This has aggravated the problem of educated un- employment and under-employment in the State and has caused considerable harm to the society. In a community college, however, a student will not just work towards a degree or diploma. He will work more importantly towards a career. Futures, it is said, will begin at the community college. When a student leaves the college, he will be able to be prepared for a job or be qualified to continue his studies at a 3-Year Degree College.

In the United States the term "Community College" is used interchangeably with the term "Junior College", which conducts pre-degree courses. There are a large number of vocational and technical programs in the community college. A student can choose from a variety of career areas in Arts, Commerce and Science Divisions of the college if he wants to complete the first two years of Associates hip which may be called Associate of Arts, Commerce or Science, as the case may be. The courses are so designed as to aid the students in developing entry-level skills to be utilized in the job market. If an interested student is undecided about the career, the counselors or the faculty of the college will help him assess his interests and abilities so that he may pick a career that is of interest to him and thus make the best use of his abilities.

The community college has an "Open Door" admission policy. It ensures that all persons who can profit from the Post High School Education have opportunity to enroll. The college, however, requires certain assessment procedure for use in course-placement prior to admission to a certificate or diploma program; but the assessment shall not be used to determine admission. Any person who has attained the age of 18 years and who likes to take up a course or courses in the college may seek admission to the college on the advice of the counselor or faculty of the college.

The community college has also a Department of Continuing Education. Any person who likes to improve himself in his own profession, occupation or office may take up a course relevant to himself in the college. The community college even provides Distance Education in order to cater service to persons who have no time to attend the college but who like to make themselves professionally fit and up to date. As many community colleges have their own television and broadcasting channels, distance education is successfully imparted.

While so many courses are taught in the community college, a man will be curious to know the recruitment of teachers, scales of pay and service conditions. The teachers who are called "Tutors" are appointed on contract basis individually. The terms of appointment differ from person to person, and the pay packages also differ from person to person according to individual contracts entered into by a tutor with the Management of the college. There is nothing like uniform scales of pay of the tutors.

As the students are given option to choose courses out a large variety, I may mention some illustrative courses taught in a community college in the United States, which may be selectively taken up in a community college in Manipur. They are : Interior decoration, Food Technology, Hotel Management, Accounting, Advertising, Animal Medical Technology, Air-conditioning & Refrigeration (Residential), Apparel Design and Fashion, Architectural Technology, Automatic Technology, Aviation Technology, Building Trade, Child Development, Commercial Music, Construction Management Technology, Criminal Justice, Family Law, Small Business Management, Vocational Nursing, Associate Degree in Nursing, Dental Assisting Technology, Medical Laboratory Technology, Respiratory Therapy Technology, Motorcycles and Mopeds Mechanics, Optical Technology, Ornamental Horticulture Technology, Agricultural Technique, Pisciculture, Radiology Sciences, Video Technology, Welding Technology, Sign Language Technology, Vocational Therapy, Pharmaceutical Technology, Public Health Engineering and Sanitation, Water and Waste Water Treatment, Motor Driving, Cosmetology, Home Improvement and Sanitary Repairing, English and Foreign Language Courses, Aerobics, Sports-National & International, Indigenous Sports, Dance, Drama, Film Acting, Script Writing, Computer Programming, Fire and Other Emergency Services, Carpentry, Smithy and Fitting, Public Relations, Banking and Small Savings, Weaving, Knitting and Embroidery, Dyeing Technology, Horticulture, Insurance, Yoga, Theology, Bicycle Mechanics, Family Planning, Electrical Wiring, etc. Further, for students who like transfer programs, there are courses on Science, Arts and Commerce at the +2 level.

It is interesting to note that as the students of the community college are of different age groups, of different backgrounds and of different interests, there is no students' union. Same is the case with teachers also. There is no teachers' union or association. There is a peaceful academic and professional atmosphere free from politics and trade unionism.

The recent venture of the Government of Manipur to set up two community colleges in two old colleges may be, I think, different from what is known as community colleges in the United States. The very name "Community College", as I have mentioned earlier, originated in the USA in the 1960's. If the Government of Manipur, although taking the same name, will make the community colleges of Manipur function on a different footing, I have little comment on it. However, it has to be taken care that the proposed community colleges of the State are different from traditional degree colleges.


* Th Joychandra wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer was the Registrar of the Manipur University from May 1983 to November 2002
This article was posted on July 22, 2014.


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