12.01.2010 -

UNESCO’s Director-General visits largest university in the world

The Director-General visiting Yelehanka pre-university college in India


“In our knowledge-based global economy, future prosperity and security will depend more than ever on being equipped with the right skills,” declared UNESCO Director-General, Ms Irina Bokova at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in New Delhi, India on 11 January.

During her first official visit to India as Director-General of UNESCO Ms Bokova delivered the IGNOU Silver Jubilee lecture on “Building inclusive knowledge societies in a globalized world”. She stressed the key role of education in achieving the Millennium Development Goals as well as the importance of relevance and accessibility: “We cannot think about green growth and inclusive globalization without education that is relevant to the world of today and accessible throughout life,” she said.   

The Director-General concluded her lecture by addressing young people worldwide, with the words of Mohandas Ghandi: “Be the change that you want to see in the world”.  

Ms Bokova’s visit to India has drawn attention to IGNOU, the largest university in the world, as well as to distance education in general.  

Almost three million students in India and 33 other countries study at IGNOU which is also India’s National Resource Centre for Open and Distance Learning and a world leader in distance education. Through its 21 schools of study, 59 regional centres, 2300 learner support centres and some 52 overseas centres, the university offers 175 certificate, diploma, degree and doctoral programmes, comprising around 1500 courses.  

IGNOU’s staff consist of 380 faculty members and academic staff in headquarters and regional centres while some 36,000 counsellors from conventional institutions of higher learning and professionals from different spheres. 

The University provides access to sustainable and learner­-centred education and training to all through quality, innovative and needs-based programmes at affordable costs, thus reaching out to the disadvantaged. It promotes, coordinates and regulates the standards of education offered through open and distance learning in India.  

With the launch of EduSat (a satellite dedicated only to education) in 2004, and the establishment of the Inter-University Consortium, IGNOU has ushered in a new era of technology-­enabled education. Today, there are 134 active video-conferencing centres; all regional, sub-regional and high enrolment study centres have been connected, and exchanges using interactive digital content are possible. Emphasis is currently on developing interactive multimedia and online learning.  

Using these innovative technologies and methodologies, IGNOU ensures the convergence of existing systems to achieve the goal of ensuring access to Education for All, providing continual professional development and training and promoting integrated national development and global understanding. 

Mrs Bokova’s schedule also includes a visit to Bangalore to see innovative uses of ICT in education.

Education in India: Facts and Figures

· 10.7% of government spending goes to education

· 66.0% of adults and 82.1% of youth are literate

· 47% of children are enrolled in pre-primary school

· 88% of girls and 91% of boys are in primary school

· 94% of children complete a full course of primary education

· 13% of the population of tertiary age are in tertiary education 


Text of Ms Bokova’s speech

Indira Gandhi National Open University

UNESCO Director-General's website


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