OCC signs pact with community college counterpart in India

Oakland Community College and Shriram IGNOU Community College in Chennai, India, signed a two-year Memorandum of Understanding in a brief ceremony conducted via Skype on June 14.
The agreement promotes virtual cultural exchanges between students of the two schools using Web 2.0 tools such as wikis and interactive online forums.  Faculty and staff members will share information and training through the internet as well.  Among the topics to be covered will be teaching English as a Second Language, counseling practices, assessing student learning styles, and the conduct of academic placements.  “We sincerely look forward to working with the team at OCC that will surely benefit the students” said Shriram IGNOU Community College Resource Head J. Murali Krishnan.
Signing the document on behalf of OCC were Vice Chancellor of External Affairs Sharon Miller and Vice Chancellor of Academic and Student Affairs Richard Holcomb.  The Shriram IGNOU Community College signers were Principal Vidya Shankar and J. Murali Krishnan.  Also present were Highland Lakes Campus Dean Cathey Maze and Auburn Hills Campus Interim Dean/English faculty member Suba Subbarao, who assisted in arranging the agreement.  “We hope to meet you in person someday…you will be welcome here,” Miller said to the Indian officials.
Both parties will revisit the agreement after two years.  Once reapproved, renewals are scheduled automatically each succeeding two years.
Home to 1.21 billion people, India is the world’s largest democracy.  In the past few years the country has established a community college system on the American model in an attempt to bring higher education to the nation’s vast population, and in so doing, raise the standard of living.
Middle- and upper-class urban Indian citizens are able to access higher education, but community colleges like Shriram IGNOU (IGNOU stands for “Indira Gandhi National Open University”) seek to bring affordable, practical and job-oriented education to the nation’s rural and urban poor.  Thus far the IGNOU system has set up 50 community colleges throughout the country.
Established in 2009, Shriram IGNOU Community College is located in Chennai on India’s southeast coast.  It offers certificate, diploma and associate degree courses in fields such as integrated farming, welding, motorcycle mechanisms, office administration, non-banking finance and sports education.  As with American community colleges, graduates may continue their educations at universities.
“As a community college we at OCC found we have a lot to offer community colleges in India,” said Dean Cathey Maze who visited Shriram IGNOU in 2010.  “We discovered that their vision, mission and goals are the same as those of community colleges in the U.S.”
With five campuses located throughout Oakland County, OCC is the largest of Michigan’s 28 community colleges and the 21st largest in the nation.  OCC offers degrees and certificates in more than 160 fields including university transfer and general studies degrees.