Harnessing education potential

Karen Speirs

With the recent appointment of its first female president, the Commonwealth of Learning is on a determined path to tackle the education and learning challenges of its member countries through its latest three-year plan.

Since it was established more than 20 years ago, the Commonwealth Of Learning (COL) has sharpened its focus. It aims to deliver long-term benefits by developing innovative models for scale and sustaina­bility, to build capacity for lifelong learning for development, and to provide value by sharing world-class expertise on open and distance learning (ODL) and technology-based approaches to education.

COL’s new three-year plan embodies these aims and emphasises skills develop­ment, the education of girls and women, and the promotion of open educational re­sources. The theme of the three-year plan for 2012-2015 is ‘Learning for Development’ and it is based on three strategic goals: quali­ty education for all Commonwealth citizens, human resources development and the use of ODL in achieving development goals.

Quality education for all includes in­creased access to affordable primary, sec­ondary and tertiary education, especially for girls, women and the marginalised. Human resources in the Commonwealth are devel­oped through implementing sustainable and replicable learning systems in the formal and informal sectors. By improving the capacity of governments and civil society to provide quality learning, Commonwealth countries can progress towards achieving the Millen­nium Development Goals and Education for All targets.

“The new three-year plan is based on extensive consultation with stakeholders across the Commonwealth,” explains new COL president, Professor Asha Kanwar. “The result is a highly focused plan that harnesses the potential of ODL to respond to the learning needs of the Commonwealth countries we serve.”

Recent COL projects have included sup­porting the expansion of open schooling in Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Tonga, providing ‘second chance’ education for school drop-outs and unemployed youth; a week-long workshop in Tanzania at the Institute of Adult Education focused on empowering female academic staff with information and communication technol­ogy skills; and a VUSSC materials devel­opment workshop in the Maldives where educators from across the Commonwealth were taught online course development skills and collaborated to create new cours­es that have since become freely available as open educational resources.

COL formally reports to Commonwealth education ministers every three years. Pro­fessor Kanwar attended the 18th Confer­ence of Commonwealth Education Minis­ters (18CCEM) in Mauritius in August to present the new three-year plan. Ministers welcomed her appointment as president of COL, “the first woman to head a Common­wealth inter-governmental organisation”. The ministers commended COL for “its growing impact since 17CCEM, especially in relation to its needs-based work in each member state.” They endorsed the three-year plan for 2012-15, emphasising the need to strengthen VUSSC and develop the use of open educational resources in pro­viding quality teaching and learning for all.

By providing more access to quality educa­tion and training through open, distance and eLearning, COL enables Commonwealth citizens to benefit from improved livelihoods, greater gender equity and overall economic, social and cultural development.

About the author:

Karen Speirs, Commonwealth of Learning


Post a comment

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Amnesty International