Collaboration with Asian Open Universities

Date: Mon, 9 Aug 1999 09:39:47 +0800
From: (Motilal Sharma)
Subject: Distance Education (Regional cooperation)

Dr Utsumi/ Mr Fjortoft,
For your consideration.
My Dear Dr. Takeshi Utsumi

Thank you very much for your message of 4 August 1999. I am very happy to know that preparations for the Tampere Conference are progressing very well. My suggestions on strengthening distance education and use of electronic media and information technology in education as well as for peace development are as follows:

1. As you know, there are major open universities in South and Southeast Asia. In India, there are about a dozen, and the number will increase in the near future. There is also one national open school providing services to a large number of students throughout the country. Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka each have well-established universities. Sri Lanka is using distance education for technical education. Coming to Southeast Asia, Thailand's STOU is a leading open university in Asia and the Pacific region. In addition, Thailand has distance education through other universities as well. Malaysia, Indonesia, and The Philippines likewise have distance education programs. Moreover, Singapore has a very well-established computer and communications network covering all institutions and households. In Malaysia the development of the so-called "cyber corridor" is an encouraging development. Japan is a leading country in the area of electronics with well-established distance education institutions. At the same time, the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong and Macao also operate open universities. Furthermore, Australia can also contribute to distance education because they have been using distance education for almost a century as one of their major strategies for education.

2. The Asian Development Bank's Regional Seminar on Distance Education in 1986 which was held at STOU brought the distance education/open universities together to share their experiences. You must have already seen the two-volume proceedings and reports produced on the conference. One of the by-products of this conference was the establishment of the Association of Asian Open Universities (AAOU) which meets annually. A major recommendation of the conference was the establishment of a regional mechanism for strengthening distance education in the Asia-Pacific countries. This was again repeated in a Round Table Conference on Distance Education for South Asian Countries organized in Pakistan in 1989. However, so far it has not taken off the ground and there is a need for a catalyst to make this concept a reality.

3 At the same time, the private sector and NGOs in Asia/Pacific are rapidly entering the distance education field through dozens of private sector TV and radio channels, e.g., CNN, Sony, BBC, ZEE, etc. These have tremendous impact on the everyday lives of Asia's vast population. But no institution or mechanism is involved in properly coordinating and maximizing their vast potential for peace development, functional literacy, poverty reduction, environmental protection, and gender issues.

The Global University System, under your inspiring and effective leadership, and the WorldView International Foundation (WIF), Sri Lanka (an international NGO), which has a network of country media centers in Asia and Pacific including Thailand and Malaysia, can provide a forum for networking all distance education institutions/programs in Asia and the Pacific which will serve more than half the world's population and the largest number of the planet's youth and poor (900 million). This means that there is need to design and develop an implementable regional mechanism for effective networking among all distance education institutions using high-tech electronic media and information technology; and also involving the grassroots stakeholders. Global University System can provide leadership in the use of high tech whereas WIF can provide assistance in designing strategies for involvement of grassroots using development communications based on electronic media.

There should be one global focal point which will be the Global University System and WIF coalition, operating as one flagship institution, strategically located in a given country. Then operating from this flagship will be a number of subregional or satellite mechanisms such as in India (for South Asia), Thailand (for Indochina), Philippines/Malaysia (for Southeast Asia), Fiji (for Pacific Islands). The flagship and satellite mechanisms will undertake a number of tasks depending on the capability and reach of these institutions involved and the beneficiaries targeted in terms of media, instructional materials, quality control, standardization, certification, information technology, a management and governance system as well as financial operations.

These preliminary ideas can be further elaborated and operationalized to define the mechanisms and investment strategies.

The sharing of resources and expertise, as well as the utilization of media for networking, should also be a primary concern.

It is necessary to set up a small expert group with clear-cut terms of reference (TOR) and a time schedule to develop a total feasibility study and investment plan for setting up the regional mechanism to strengthen distance education and lifelong learning in Asia and the Pacific. It is in this connection that I thought your good self and Mr. Arne Fjortoft, with your vast experience and connections, could meet and explore the possibility of jointly starting positive steps towards this concept.

Later, at the appropriate stage, you may then share a clearer proposal with multilateral and bilateral donors. I am confident that if a strong regional mechanism is established, it can optimize the use of existing institutions and will not require more capital investments. This will also help in improving the quality of distance education, in terms of which most of the institutions are suffering. It will further strengthen efficient education services to the disadvantaged and poor, especially those in rural areas, including women, who have not been able to benefit from the fruits of development. I think that that you and Arne are spearheading a movement of the future; and it will be most opportune to seize the moment now, not tomorrow. I would be happy to assist in any way you deem appropriate.

Date: Wed, 11 Aug 1999 09:49:56 +0800
From: (Motilal Sharma)
Subject: Re: AAOU Conference

Dear Dr Librero,

I am happy to hear that the U.P. Open University will be hosting the 14th Annual Conference of AAOU in the year 2000. As you know, the AAOU is a by-product of the Regional Seminar on Distance Education organized by the Bank in 1986, hence we feel happy to see that it is growing. At this point I would like to suggest that you may wish to invite the following:

(i) Dr Takeshi Utsumi

(ii) Mr Arne Fjortoft
Secretary General
Worldview International Foundation/Sri Lanka

Their agencies are involved in distance education in Asia. Their participation in the conference will add a new dimension to it. You may use my reference in your communications to them.

With regards.

Motilal Sharma

Subject: AAOU Conference
Author: Felix Librero <> at INTERNET
Date: 09-08-99 8:28 AM

... the U.P. Open University shall host the 14th Annual Conference of the AAOU from 25-27 October 2000. It will be held in Manila... The theme of the conference is: Open Learning and Distance Education: Ideology, Pedagogy and Technology.

... We are asking those interested in presenting a paper or perhaps a poster paper to submit a 300-word abstract not later than 29 February 2000. Those whose proposed papers are accepted will be informed not later than 31 March 2000. They will be asked to prepare a full-length paper and submit it to the Papers Committee not later than 30 June 2000.

... I hope you will be able to join us in this very significant international conference.

My warmest regards,

Vice Chancellor, Research and Development
University of the Philippines Open University
College, Laguna, Philippines
Faxphone: (63-49) 536-2429

Motilai Sharma
Senior Education Specialist
Asian Development Bank
6 ADB Avenue
Mandaluyong City
0401 Metro Manila
P. O. Box 789
0980 Manila
+632-632-4444 (main)
Fax: +632-636-2310
+632-636-2444 (main)

Edited by Steve McCarty, updated on 12 February 2003
Kagawa Junior College, Japan
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