Panel description: Challenges and collaborative opportunities for distance education in small developing countries of the Commonwealth

Stewart Marshall, Distance Education Centre, UWI

The globalisation of knowledge and educational products and services means that all countries can, in principle, be both providers and consumers of education. However, given the existence of greater production capacity, powerful alliances, and high volume markets, it seems more likely that larger developed countries (and to some extent, larger developing countries) rather than small developing countries will become the major producers of distance education products and services. This can pose an economic, political and cultural threat to small developing countries and small states, including Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Small state economies such as those found in Africa, the South Pacific and the Caribbean find it difficult to respond because their inability to access economies of scale make "the creation and delivery of distance material constitute a substantial investment, which is difficult to quantify and equally difficult to recoup" (Morgan, 2000, p.107). There are those who fear that globalised open and distance education will amount to cultural importation/invasion/imperialism (Evans, 1995b, pp.314-315). Thus, although distance education is now a priority for many developing countries (Chandra, 2000; Gomez, 1999; Perez, 1997), the particular social, cultural, economic and political context may make it difficult for small state economies to introduce it.

This panel, comprising distance educators drawn from small developing countries, including SIDS, of the Caribbean, will address the question “How do we secure increased access to and sustainability of tertiary education in the resource challenged environments of small island developing countries, especially in the current global environment, where competition, innovation, change and uncertainty are the natural state of things?”

Chandra, R. (2000). From dual-mode to multimodal, flexible teaching and learning: Distance education at the University of the South Pacific. Distance Education in Small States. Proceedings of the Conference held in Jamaica, 27-28 July. Barbados: Distance Education Centre, University of West Indies. 31-47. Published at:
Evans, T.D. (1995). Thinking globalisation: Issues for open and distance educators in Australia and the South Pacific. In Nouwens, F. (ed) (1995) Distance education: Crossing frontiers. Papers for the 12th Biennial Forum of the Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia, Vanuatu, September. Central Queensland University, Australia. 312-316.
Gomez, J. S. 1999. Communication and information technologies development: A system of distance education for Colombia's Carribean region. PhD Thesis, Department of Communication, University of Utah, USA. UMI Number: 9917673.
Morgan, P. (2000). Strengthening the Stakes: Combining Distance and Face-to-Face Teaching Strategies - Preliminary Discussion Issues. Distance Education in Small States. Proceedings of the Conference held in Jamaica, 27-28 July. Distance Education Centre, University of West Indies, Barbados. 106-112. Published at:
Perez, L. G. (1997). Testing the systems model in Mexican Distance Education: The case of the Virtual University ay the Instituto Technologico Y De Estudios Superiore De Monterrey. Doctor of Education Thesis, Graduate School, University of Massachusetts, USA. UMI Number: 9721449.

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