Why is Open Learning Failing the Masses of Africa?

Thumbnail Image
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Corporate Author
Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF2 // The title of this paper is to some extent a rhetorical question. It reflects the rhetorical rather than scientific or academic purpose of the paper. It is given not so much to find provable answers as to stimulate the emotional and professional concern of educators attending this forum and to seek action on the problem it sets out to highlight. // Open and distance learning almost certainly, either in tandem or separately, represents the most dramatic development in education, especially in developing countries, in the second half of the twentieth century: the phrase has become one of the leading catch-phrases in the educational jargon of our time. In the last decade it has been joined by information and communication technology and such phrases as the new Information Super-Highway; in fact in some circles it has been superceded by or even absorbed into ICT. The latter seems set to remain the educational ‘flavour-of-themonth’ for many of the months of the first decade of the twenty-first century. // We must set against that apparent educational success story the rather dismal failures to achieve the Jomtien slogan of 1990, ‘Education for All by the year 2000’. In reviews prepared for the Dakar Conference in 2000, which reviewed the achievements towards EFA, some dramatic statistics emerged: it was predicted that by 2000 there were about 125 million children worldwide and 50 million in sub-Saharan Africa not in school; the number in Africa was set to rise to about 55 million by 2015; it was similarly predicted that in 2000 there were 875 million adults who were illiterate with probably at least 200 million of these in Africa. This figure was also set to grow as more children who had not been to school became adults by 2015. // To what extent, if at all, have the successes of open and distance learning been targeted at the failures of EFA? This paper, which explores the somewhat gloomy answer to that question, draws heavily on an earlier paper I prepared for the International Extension College commissioned by COL and UNESCO as one of many background papers in preparation for the Dakar Conference. (Dodds 1999). //