Asha Singh Kanwar, one of the world’s leading advocates of learning for
development, on Friday presided over the lecture on Development and Education
at an Overview of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) workshop hosted by the
Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and the Regional Training and Research Institute
of Distance and Open Learning (RETRIDOL) under the auspices of the National Open University of Nigeria
(NOUN), in collaboration with the University of The Gambia and Ministry of
Basic and Secondary Education.
The three-day training held at the University of The Gambia was attended by 32 participants from different institutions.
Prof. Kanwar’s engagement with Distance Education began when she joined Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) where she served as professor, director of the School of Humanities and pro-vice chancellor. Prof. Kanwar has over 35 years of experience in teaching, research and administration. She has written, edited and co-edited a dozen books and published over 50 papers and articles.
She has explained that over 1.2 million people in The Gambia are youths under the age of 27, and that they need more learning to equip themselves with skills.
“Distance learning is separation of teacher and the learner, while open learning lets people that have few barriers and is not the same as distance education, instead they are complementary. Among the openness of ODL in practice are; no entry qualification, credit banking cafeteria approach to courses and at anytime and anywhere,” she explained.
Prof. Asha reiterated that open schooling is a supplementary or complementary model of schooling, which uses a range of flexible approaches, based on open and distance learning, to provide structured teaching and learning opportunities. It has emerged as a viable alternative to supplement and complement primary and secondary education and can be provided by standalone, independent distance education institutions, be managed as part of the education ministry within a specific directorate, or be part of a university.
Addressing the challenge of out of school youth, she added, requires a multi-dimensional approach. “COL has been promoting the open schooling model across the Commonwealth. The new approach to open schooling at COL is more holistic and focuses on the training of teachers in eLearning, using open educational resources (OER), improving the management of open schools and supporting the use of appropriate technologies in teaching and learning,” she said.
This, she added, involves integrating the open schooling approach into mainstream schools to enable many out-of-school youths to access formal education.
She highlighted that COL contributes to professional development and training in ODL and technology-based approaches and to acquiring new knowledge and skills by providing individuals with experience outside their normal working environment.