Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Open Distance Learning (ODL) mode is a viable option in the educational arena...!!!

Monday, 22 March 2010

Open distance learning
Alternative provider of quality education:

H. M. Guneratne Banda

The Open School Department in NIE has completed six years of its journey and has proved that the Open Distance Learning (ODL) mode is a viable option in the educational arena. The NIE with the assistance of Prison Department in Welikada will organise a series of activities to create awareness on open schooling among all the stakeholders of the country.

* Lanka achieves higher HDI than all S Asian countries
* Adult literacy rate 90.7 percent
* Infant mortality rate 17 per 1,000
* Life expectancy 7.1 percent
* Annual population growth rate 1.1 percent
* NIE created Department for Open Schooling in 2004


A short definition of Open Schooling is
“the physical separation of the school level learner from the teacher and the use of unconventional teaching methodologies, and information and communication technologies to bridge the separation and provide the educational and training” (Phillips, 2006)

National Institute of Education, Maharagama. Pic. courtesy: Google

Open Schools design flexible programs to meet learner needs without requiring full time attendance at a traditional school. It recognises that students learn in different ways, at different speeds and at different times of their lives. Distance learning combined with periodic face-to-face contact sessions allow students to learn at their own pace.

Commonwealth of Learning (COL) defines usually there are no rules dictating student ages, prerequisites, content of courses. As a result, open schooling meets the needs of a broad range of learners.

Global vision for Education Provision
UNESCO, in its report and ‘Learning - The Treasure within’, of 1996, aimed to provide a frame of reference to cope with the challenges and demands of the new millennium. It proposed the following four pillars of education, as essentials for all whether young or older to function effectively in the new millennium.

These are:
(a) Learning to do or becoming competent
(b) Learning to learn or remaining a life-long learner.
(c) Learning to live with others or learning to relate
(d) Learning to be or live by a set of principles; be a person of character

Sri Lankan context
Sri Lanka has experienced a series of changes in its overall education policy since attaining independence from British colonial rule in 1948. The new education policy has been prepared with the consultation of relevant stakeholders and it is ready to be submitted to the Parliament in due course. We forwarded our suggestions and comments the importance of open schooling systems especially in a country like Sri Lanka.

Interaction was key as teachers participated at several group
projects at NIE, Maharagama. Pic. courtesy: Google

Sri Lanka has achieved Human Development Indicators (HDI) higher than all South Asian countries. The adult literacy rate is 90.7 percent, infant mortality rate 17 per 1,000; and life expectancy is 7.1 and annual population growth rate is 1.1 percent.

Sri Lanka provides free education and university entrance is confined to 1 percent and rest is compelled to pursue higher education through professional institutions. With all these provisions every year a considerable number of children dropped out from the school.

Thus the natural question arises: what is the chance that children will continue his/her schooling in present condition of education? Hence an attempt has been made to find out the survival chance for each school going age.

Realizing the importance of providing educational opportunities the NE created a separate Department for Open Schooling in 2004 and first open school was established at Negombo Open Prisons Camp with the assistance of Prison Department.

The Open School Department in NIE is responsible to provide academic input such as learning materials, modules and A.V. material for the course participants. Internal as well as external resource persons are engaged to prepare learning material and submit to the Academic Affairs and the NIE Council for approval before distributing to the learners.

An Advisory Committee consisting of eminent educationists will take policy decisions in consultation with the Director General of the NIE. Already ten centres have been established throughout the country in taking into consideration of local demands. More than 1,000 learners enrolled during the year 2009. Each centre is supported by a senior tutor who provides learner support.

The Millennium Development Goals set by the UN in 2000 had the following items:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve material health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development

International context
We live in a knowledge-dominated world today. We witness tremendous progress made in science and technology. Hence, the fundamental division among the peoples of the world today is due to the knowledge gap. We also witness today massive poverty and gross inequalities and injustices in many fields of life. Open Schooling could be regarded as a one of the options to provide learning opportunities.

Developing countries will not be able to achieve the goal of providing Education For All (EFA) without including ODL programs as part of their response the challenge.

Developing countries are taking steps to spread open school system to remote areas.

Open schools are not new. The figures refer to the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) in India. NIOS has enrolled more than 1.5 million students over the past four years. 16 states established Open Schools for the benefit of distant learners.

In this context, the future workforce will need high levels of knowledge and skills to deal with new technologies and integrated production systems. Services and facilitate learning on individual basis. Tutors will come to the NIE with problems encountered during teaching and learning processes and possible remedial measures will be discussed. This could be regarded as sharing of best practices among other tutors.

The following courses are conducting by Open School Department in NIE:
Foundation Course
Secondary Course
Life Enrichment Course
Language Skill Development Course

GTZ provides financial assistance to carry out planned activities during the last two years. It is intended to get the cooperation from local, regional and international organisations to strengthen the Open School system in Sri Lanka.

The writer is Assistant Director General, National Institute of Education, Maharagama.

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