Developing Countries Embrace Distance Education
In Beijing, Jakarta and elsewhere in Asia large state-run distance-learning institutions have been established to help meet the burgeoning demand for higher education, which governments can no longer satisfy through traditional bricks-and-mortar schools. But proponents of distance learning are finding themselves faced with new challenges and obstacles. Two of the biggest problems remain: 1) how to introduce online technologies in places where few have access to computers or phones and 2) the difficulty of guaranteeing the quality of programs offered by distance-learning institutions operating both inside and outside their borders.
The trend towards distance education in developing countries is being fueled by the need to close the education gap with rich nations. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO) only 7 percent of young people in Asia attain some form of post-secondary education compared with 58 percent in industrialized countries, and 81 percent in the United States.
Distance-education programs are gaining popularity in many poor nations because they are perceived as being an affordable way to educate large numbers of people. Both UNESCO and the World Bank confirmed this to be true. In a recent joint report, they found that the cost of education per student at the world’s largest distance-learning institutions (most of them situated in developing countries) is, on average, about one-third the cost of education at traditional bricks-and-mortar schools in the same country.
In China, for instance, where a mere one out of 20 young people goes to college, distance-learning technologies have been widely adopted to facilitate the transition from elite to mass education. The China Central Radio and Television University, founded in 1979, has 1.5 million students, two-thirds of which are in degree programs. It caters mainly to working adults.
As a result of the need for better-trained professionals in an era of unprecedented economic growth, the government has ordered China Central to expand its enrollment by 100,000 students per year.
To maximize flexibility, China Central has turned for help to the Open University of Hong Kong
(OUHK), which provides study materials in print and CD-ROM formats for its 25,000 degree students, in additional to individual contact with tutors by telephone, e-mail and face-to-face meetings.
OUHK has already trained about 100 educators from China Central through 10-day seminars. The two institutions are currently considering joint courses in business administration, education and nursing. China Central has adopted a credit system and is also experimenting with more multimedia and with making study materials more accessible, especially in the big cities where Internet use is increasing.
Other countries in Asia are grappling with similar challenges. In Iran, for instance, the University of Welfare Sciences and Rehabilitation uses distance education to provide in-service training to social workers, occupational therapists and other working professionals across the country. However, while the institution would like to supplement its use of printed materials and videocassettes with Internet-based learning, officials claim that the lack of computer technology and teacher training for this kind of delivery would make it difficult.
In other Asian countries governments are investing heavily in online programs. The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization
is in the process of developing a project for a regional “virtual campus system” designed to upgrade the skills of employees who work within the expanding “tiger economies” of Southeast Asia. The new inter-regional campus system is expected to face fierce competition from Australian, British and the North American distance-education programs, provided by both traditional universities and private businesses.
Another problem is quality control. Despite quality assurance systems, transnational distance programs are often beyond the control of governments. In India, for example, foreign degrees are considered highly prestigious, and private distance-learning institutions are taking advantage of the huge demand. While no one knows how many students are actually enrolled in these programs, the country has been inundated by advertisements targeting students interested in earning a foreign degree online. Trying to determine which institutions are legitimate and which ones are bogus diploma mills can be difficult.
Hence, India’s University Grants Commission plans to require mandatory registration to protect students from scam schools and diploma mills. All foreign institutions that wish to offer distance-education programs in India will soon be required to register with the government.
Chronicle of Higher Education
June 15, 2001
Cambodia’s Course in Law Studies
Cambodia’s Faculty of Law and Economics currently offers a degree program in law studies, developed with the assistance of the French government and recognized by the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports
. The standard length of this program is four years, at the end of which time the graduating student obtains a licence en droit
, equivalent to a bachelor of law degree.
The academic year is divided into two semesters, comprised of 13 weeks each. Admission to the program in law studies requires a baccalaureate or equivalent qualification and the successful completion of an entrance exam.
Correspondence from the Faculty of Law and Economics
June 7, 2001
Only the ‘Medically Fit’ Can Go To College, China Decrees
Authorities have introduced new examinations for students wanting to attend universities in China to judge their medical suitability and physical fitness. Teenagers whose legs differ in length by more than two inches or whose spine is curved by 1 1/2 inches will be prohibited from attending courses as varied as geology, law and civil engineering.
Students who suffer from color blindness will be banned from attending business administration courses, while those diagnosed with cancer, epilepsy, high blood pressure or “mental disorders” will be prevented from enrolling in universities altogether. According to authorities, the new medical examinations aim to “engineer” a stronger, healthier student population, free from physical and mental handicaps.
Given the level of competition to get into college, weeding out the mentally and physically challenged is seen as necessary. There are university places for only about 5 percent of China’s student population, although some 20 percent apply. Few objections have been raised to restricting university entry to “healthy” students. Chinese law requires the government to work actively to “raise the quality of the Chinese people.” A debate continued to rage about how far the country should go towards removing the mentally deficient from the population.
Sunday Telegraph (London)
June 24, 2001
China Wants to Increase Student Enrollment
According to the Beijing Youth Daily the government’s campaign to broaden access to public, higher education and increasing support for private universities has led to a 14% enrollment increase over the past year.
The government wants more than 20 percent of the eligible population to receive a higher education by 2015. The current percentage is about 11 percent compared to 60 percent in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. Experts have expressed concern over the diminishing quality of education in recent years resulting from teacher shortages and overcrowded classrooms in some colleges. They note that the deterioration is due to the country’s rapid economic expansion.
Chronicle of Higher Education
March 23, 2000
A U.S. Law School in China
On April 26, 33 students in Beijing received LLM degrees from Temple University
, the first law degrees conferred by a foreign university in China. Temple University was invited by the government to develop a law program on Chinese soil as part of the country’s efforts to integrate itself with a global economy, partly through the reform of the legal system. New legislation was recently passed, for example, requiring officials and judges to be competent in contract law, a concept that has been absent so far in the Chinese legal system.
Half of the 64 students enrolled in Temple’s law program in China are private lawyers paying $15,000 in tuition. Tuition for the remaining students, of which 14 are judges, is covered by the Chinese government and partially sponsored by foreign scholarships offered by such organizations as the Starr Foundation
, the Henry Luce Foundation
, the Trace Foundation
and by multinational corporations like General Motors, Dupont and Microsoft.
World Higher Education Reporter
May 14, 2001
New Degree Programs at IGNOU
Applications to MBA programs and other specialized diploma courses are also currently being accepted.
June 6, 2001
Demonstrators Fight Private Education
Students and professors in New Delhi demonstrated in protest of government efforts to privatize higher education in India. They fear that the Ambani-Birla report recommendations advocating substantial cutbacks in virtually all fields of higher education, except in liberal and performing arts, will be reflected in the 2001-02 budget that is now being considered by Parliament. The report was prepared for the Prime Minister’s Council on Trade and Industry
If the recommendations are passed into law, students in the sciences, medical and legal fields would have to bear all university costs ranging between $1,500 and $8,000. This would make higher education accessible to only a small percentage of people. Currently, college and university tuition in India is among the lowest in the world. Critics argue that this is the reason for the country’s dilapidated educational facilities.
The authors of the report advocate a more free-market approach to higher education, which includes doing away with the labor laws that govern teachers and professors. However, no decisions on the report’s recommendations have been made, as of yet, according to a spokesman in the Ministry of Human Resource and Development
, which oversees education.
Chronicle of Higher Education
March 23, 2001
Joint IT Program for Commerce Graduates
Osmania University and Eastern Michigan University in the United States have entered into a “Memorandum of Understanding” for the promotion of academic cooperation between the two institutions in the fields of teaching, research and academic exchange. In particular, the agreement between the two universities will create a joint master-of-commerce program in information science. The objective of the new program is to prepare new commerce graduates with strong backgrounds in information technology to take up challenging careers in international business and the service sectors.
The Memorandum of Understanding
seeks to develop mutually acceptable systems for the recognition of academic credits between the two universities to ensure a smooth transfer of credits.
Jan. 11, 2001
Berlitz Goes Franchise Route in Teaching English to Kids
In light of the growing demand for English education for children, Berlitz Japan
, Berlitz International’s language branch in Japan, plans to aggressively open new schools all over the world. Although Berlitz has traditionally operated as a language school primarily for businesspeople, the school has been offering a new English language program geared towards children since April 2000.
The new program, called Sesame English, targets youngsters between the ages of 4 and 12, and is being offered in Europe, Latin America and other parts of Asia, including Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. Sesame English was jointly developed with Children’s Television Workshop in the United States. At present, approximately 3,500 children are enrolled in the program’s 42 branches throughout the world. The monthly fee is 9,200 Yen (US$74.25) for four 40-minute lessons. Berlitz Japan now has a total of 54 branches, 51 of which are directly operated by the parent company and three of which are franchised.
The Nikkei Weekly
June 4, 2001
Malaysia May Force Private Colleges to Use Ethnic Quotas
Malaysia Education Minister Musa Mohamed announced that the country’s laws requiring public universities to abide by an ethnic quota system in selecting students may be extended to private colleges. This measure aims to rectify a perceived chronic imbalance between the number of Malay and non-Malay students at private institutions of higher learning. Malays make up no more than 15 percent of the intake in private colleges, which enroll some 215,000 students, compared with about 145,000 at the public universities. The rest of places go to students who are ethnically Chinese. Zheng Guangzu, the Malaysian Chinese Association secretary, denounced the proposal as “regressive,” making Malaysia the only Asian nation that officially discriminates against a segment of its population in matters of higher education.
While attempting to create a flourishing private market for higher education, the policy has sought to help the country’s ethnic majority, Malays, advance over their financially dominant Chinese counterpart. It has also sought to increase the number of Chinese Malaysians who pursue post-secondary studies abroad. This issue has been prominent since Ministry of Education statistics indicated that this year’s total enrollment at public universities was about 20 percent below the target of 38,000, with some 7,168 university places still vacant because not enough Malays applied. At the same time, the ministry revealed that 560 Chinese Malaysians who scored among the very highest levels on last year’s university examinations had failed to secure places at any public universities.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 15, 2001
Cosmopoint’s Advantage is its Wide Twinning Programs
Malaysia’s Cosmopoint Institute of Information Technology
recently set up a twinning program with Swinburne University of Technology
in Australia. The new program allows Cosmopoint students majoring in multimedia to finish the last year of their degree program in Australia. The students must first complete their year-long diploma program at Cosmopoint in Malaysia, consisting of nine subjects and a final project. Courses utilize online learning technologies, complemented with face-to-face lectures and tutorials.
Cosmopoint’s diploma in information technology targets students who wish to embark on a career in IT, but don’t necessarily have any previous computing knowledge or experience. The program requires 16 to18 credit hours per semester for full-time students, and 12 to14 credit hours for part-time students. Classes will run for 14 weeks, with one week for review and another week for the final exam.
The diploma in information technology is fully approved by the National Accreditation Board. Students graduating with this diploma are eligible to enter the second or third year of programs offering the bachelor of science degree in many Australian, U.K., Canadian and U.S. universities.
New Straits Times-Management Times
June 3, 2001
Isra University to Offer IT Degrees
Isra University recently announced it is launching three new degree programs specializing in information technology. Beginning in October, the following new degrees will be offered:
• Bachelor of business administration, BBA (IT)
• Bachelor of information technology (BIT)
• Master of information technology (MIT)
Isra University is the only private university in the city of Hyderabad duly accredited by the University Grants Commission and chartered by the government of Sindh,
Business Recorder-Financial Times Information
July 8, 2001
Islamabad: Public Sector Information Technology Universities to Have Low Fee Structure
The Ministry for Science and Technology
recently announced that the Pakistani government plans to subsidize information technology (IT) education. Ministry officials have instructed Pakistan’s Internet Service Provider, Comsats Internet Services
, to lower its proposed fee structure for the new IT university in Abbottabad. The University of Abbottabad is expected to open its doors to students on Sept. 1.
Another IT university is also expected to open soon in Lahore. In selecting next year’s curriculum, priority will be given to job-specific, needs-oriented programs, especially those that can contribute to poverty alleviation, as determined by a sub-committee.
July 4, 2001
Admissions for Sale in South Korea
South Korea’s Yonsei University
in Seoul will introduce its “donation-for-admissions” system at the beginning of the 2002-2003 academic year, despite government opposition. The system would set aside a limited number of spots for people who have contributed $1.5 million in cash or land to the university.
Yonsei officials claim that this is only way to resolve chronic financial difficulties, given that more than 70 percent of Yonsei’s budget comes from tuition. South Korea’s Ministry of Education has opposed the plan, calling it unfair, while students have criticized it as well. The university’s student council has proposed, as an alternative, that the administration takes measures to reform the Yonsei’s financial structure.
The Chronicle of Higher Education
June 15, 2001
Taiwan Universities to Look Beyond Test Scores for Admissions
A new diversified university entrance system will replace the 48-year-old standardized, joint university entrance examination next year to take into account factors like student aptitudes and extra-curricular activities, in addition to academic performance. A basic learning abilities exam will test students’ capacities to handle college work, instead of the three-day joint entrance exam.
Exams will be scheduled twice yearly, in February and in April, enabling students to retake them, if necessary. Students will be able to enter a university either by direct application (passing the basic learning abilities test), through school recommendations or by assignment. Universities will have to organize their own entrance tests and interviews for candidates. Students applying to universities could use their results from the learning abilities test, or take another course-related exam held in July, which would resemble the soon-to-be-defunct joint entrance exam.
Business Recorder-Financial Times Information
July 4, 2001
First Foreign University
Australia’s Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
(RMIT) has established Vietnam’s first foreign-owned university, a year after the country’s communist government agreed to license the university. The new institution is called the International University of Vietnam
, RMIT will cover 40 percent of the $50 million costs, while the remaining 60 percent will be financed by foreign investors. Completion of construction work, aided by a recent $7.5 million contribution from the Asia Development Bank
, is expected by 2003. However, students are already enrolled at the university and classes are in session. The new university will offer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in subjects ranging from technology to economics and natural sciences.
The Times Higher Education Supplement
May 25, 2001