On Sun, 9 Jul 1995, Adrian wrote:
>In terms of developng the access to continuing education (e.g. via distance
>education), I am interested in what others think about the potential of
>developing ecomms against more traditional ways of supporting such learning.
>As the technologies mature and the price falls it would seem that the cost
>effectiveness of using ecomms rather than relying on transporting tapes and
>other materials by more traditional means may become increasingly attractive
>- as well as opening up the potential for accessing information on a global
>scale and sharing ideas with other learners at a distance.
Yes, Adrian, I think the emerging Eletronic Distance Education technologies
is opening up a window of opportunity for implmenting EDE on a large scale
in Africa. I made this point (among others) in a paper " Towards Electronic
Distance Education (EDE) in Developing Countries: Making the Case for the
African Region', presented at a Conference on TOWARDS GLOBAL ELECTRONIC
DISTANCE EDUCATION, Academy for Educational Development (AED), Washington,
D.C. 20037. 10-11 July 1995.
This is a long paper, below is a synopsis of the introductory part which
made the case for EDE in Africa. The paper also incorporates detail
proposals of how to proceed. Please post your reactions/views on the
general idea of the 'possibilities and potentials for EDE in Africa' to
============= Synopsis of the EDE-- Africa Paper =============
Electronic distance education (EDE) has been perceived as a powerful means
to utilize the emerging telecommunications and electronic messaging
technologies, for the dissemination of teaching and learning materials and
information from what could be described as 'education-resource rich' to
'education-resource poor' environments. The prediction is that these new
global electronic technologies may significantly change the way people are
educated and trained.
The argument often put forward is that electronic distance education could
complement and supplement face-to-face campus-based education in Africa,
and assist in reducing educational costs in these institutions, as well as
make higher education more accessible to a wider audience.
Although distance education through electronic media has been around in one
form or another for a number of years, the availability of new educational
technologies is opening up new opportunities for implementing EDE on a
much larger scale than was possible before. The use of these technologies
to service new ways of education, training, apprenticeship, and learning,
as well as research collaborations, supervision and coordination, is
beginning to make the implementation of EDE a realistic possibility in a
number of African countries. In the not so distant future, it will be
possible to extend EDE even to the remotest parts of Africa.
Making the Case
It is often acknowledged that the development of human resources is key to
the economic development of any nation. African nations, although normally
classified as underdeveloped, have huge untapped human resources which can
easily be developed to fuel and sustain their economic development.
However, it is acknowledged that most of these countries, because of their
weak economic infrastructure, are facing serious problems meeting their
education budgets and other public expenditure commitments. Some of these
African countries, in an attempt to address their chronic economic
problems, are embarking on the implementation of structural adjustment
programs under the auspices of the World Bank and the IMF.
Although the actual implementation of SAPs differ from country to country,
one of the key requirements is a reduction in public expenditure; an
exercise which, in a number of countries, has led to drastic reductions in
the education budget. This reduction has translated into cut-backs in
higher education places and less money available for the development of
critical educational resources in these institutions.
The pressure in most African countries to make cuts in their education
budgets to balance the books is making it very difficult for their
educational sector to meet their primary obligations -- that is developing
the nations human resources as a base for initiating and sustaining
economic growth on which much depends.
In summary, while most African countries are experiencing on one hand an
increasing demand for limited higher education places, as more and more of
their people enter into education, they are on the other hand having fewer
and fewer resources available to them to meet these demands. Thus most
institutions of higher education in a number of African countries are in
effect operating in an environment of limited educational resources, in the
face of increasing demands for their services.
The emerging education technologies, particularly in the area of electronic
messaging to support electronic-based education and training, is providing
a window of opportunity to supplement the limited educational resources in
African countries. Teleducation could make quality educational resources in
resource-rich environments available to those in under-resourced
environments (the type of environment most African countries operate in).
The emerging EDE technologies will also provide an opportunity for
developing new courses and programs for mass distribution and transmission
The case for promoting EDE in Africa can also be made on the following
grounds. It is well known that for generations, African nations have been
sending their students to Western Europe, North America and the former
Eastern Block for higher education. In recent years it is increasingly
becoming difficult for Africans to study abroad because of cuts in
education expenditure in these host countries, which in some cases gave
rise to steep increases in the fees for foreign students coupled with
drastic reductions in the level and the number of scholarships being
offered to foreign students studying in these countries.
The worsening economic problems in a number of African countries also make
it difficult for them to award their citizens scholarships and fellowships
to avail of studies abroad which are not offered in their home country. All
these factors have contributed to a situation where African students
wishing to avail of education not available to them in their home country
find it more and more difficult to do so.
A number of those who manage against the odds to go abroad for their
education, face enormous financial difficulties and sometimes end up
performing below their potential. Some of the African students who manage
to finish their studies fail to go back home to help in the socio-economic
development of their countries. It is widely acknowledged that their
failure to return home has aggravated the brain drain suffered by a number
of African countries as a direct result of their poor economic performance
for the last two decades.
EDE in Africa will among other things assist in making high quality
educational resources from developed countries available to Africans in
their home countries. Not only will Africans be able to continue to
participate in the socio-economic development of their countries but also
African countries will be able to retain a high proportion of their
skilled researchers and scientists, a prerequisite for sustainable
development in a competitive global market.
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