Rethinking Open and Distance Education Practices: Unearthing Subjectivities and Barriers to Learning

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2002-07
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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)
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PCF2 // This paper presents a new orientation towards open and distance education, through which its status and practices could be examined and improved. This new orientation is a theoretical one adapted from the Afrocentric1 research methodology I created (Reviere, 1996)2. It provides a philosophical and methodological framework through which open and distance education can be re-examined and reconstructed. The creation of new theories and the strengthening of existing ones are critical roles that universities, especially those in the lessindustrialised countries, can play in the development and enhancement of open and distance education. // This new orientation suggests that open and distance education should be practised from an Afrocentricplace3. I need to pause here briefly to clarify the concept of an Afrocentric place. The Afrocentric place is a rightly shaped perspective that allows all stakeholders, including learners and facilitators, to put their ideals and values at the centre of the learning process/activity. The Afrocentric place always includes the principles of inclusivity, cultural specificity, critical awareness, committedness, and political awareness. Hence, by definition, Afrocentricity and the Afrocentric place describe an inclusive philosophy. Despite the “Afro” in the name, the intention is to focus on any individual or group being served, in order to make them the subject, and not the object, of whatever activity is being undertaken. In other words, one of the principal objectives of Afrocentrism is to provide or return power to the hands of those being served, so that their interests and needs can influence the learning activity. This focus on the individual is particularly important in diverse communities like the Caribbean, since we are a widely acknowledged, and mostly successful, multi-ethnic (and multi-national) society. // The Afrocentric approach described in this paper will provide new yardsticks (which I call Afrocentric canons4) against which knowledge and its acquisition should be judged. A new approach is necessary because, both historically and culturally, knowledge acquisition in the less industrialised countries like the Caribbean has been a passive5, hierarchical6, and privileged7 activity. This new Afrocentric orientation to knowledge acquisition and use pushes the education debate (especially as it concerns open and distance education) into another realm, where the processes of knowledge acquisition, and the content acquired, become subservient to the usefulness of that knowledge and how it affects the well-being of the people being served. This paper argues that the traditional modes of knowledge acquisition and learning criteria, to which most of us have been exposed, are inadequate and incorrect, especially in a context with a diverse racial or other mix, and this is especially important for the more mature learners, as make up the distance education population in the Caribbean. Employing an Afrocentric approach, as in the canons employed here, will provide more useful criteria. //

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West Indies
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Caribbean and Americas
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