Teacher Education The Role Of Open And Distance Learning

valley view universityToday’s world is fast shifting toward a knowledge-intensive economy. Forces such as globalisation, internationalisation, automation, and major advances in science and technology are shaping the world.

These forces have transformed society, bringing with it an increased demand for specialised training and human resource development.

In this 21st century, students need rigorous skills to be critical thinkers, problem solvers, innovators, and effective communicators. They need the skills to make them technologically proficient, globally aware, civically engaged, and skills that is relevant to workforce expectations.

Today, we see the increasing use of information technology in all aspects of education. The millennium development educational goal imposes additional challenge on us, to ensure that by 2015, “children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling’.

Achieving this goal will require the training of millions of new teachers and upgrading the skills of non-professional, and underqualified teachers already working in schools.

Our teachers have a responsibility to train and develop a critical mass of professionals who are skilled in promoting our world view and national development.

Thus, the need to provide teachers with the tools that will make them competitive in the job market of the 21st century is great and urgent, and will require a radical rethinking of traditional ways we train our teachers if we are to meet the need for an enlarged and enriched education for all to prepare teachers to participate in the global economy.

Over the past few years, Open and Distance Learning (ODL) has emerge as a supplement to the traditional educational system based on brick and mortal within Africa and other parts of the world.

Institutions such as the African Council for Distance Education, the African Distance Learning Association, the African Virtual University, the Commonwealth Of Learning (COL), the British Council, and NEPAD’s commitment and plans to support innovative education in Africa are some indicators to attest to the central role played by ODL in education in Africa.

Educational leaders in Africa are aware of this fact and have made tremendous progress in addressing not only the educational needs of teachers but, have implemented various measures to ensure that no child of school going age is deprived of this basic human right.

A good reference point in Ghana is the new educational reform which acknowledges the critical role of teacher quality to the success of the new initiative and commits to improving the conditions of service of teachers to motivate them to give of their best.

The upgrading of all the 38 public Teacher Training Colleges in Ghana and the selection of 15 of such institutions for specialised Science, Mathematics and Technology education, and the use of  Distance Education  to upgrade teachers skills while still at post are clear indications of the Ghana government’s commitment to this noble cause.

The ongoing upgrade of Ghana’s teachers, formally called the “Untrained Teachers Diploma in Basic Education Course” (UTDBE) has been implemented  to upgrade the skills of the country’s 24,000 non-professional teachers to enable them be at par with their counterparts who’ve had the benefit of professional teacher education.

ICT-enhanced ODL will enable Africa to train more teachers within a reasonable time frame, and address the needs of not only teachers but non-traditional learners (workers, housewives, etc.).

In most parts of Africa where a disproportionate proportion of  teachers live in very remote areas, generally in isolation, an ICT-enhanced educational system offers the best education to teacher education in the 21st century.

My proposal is that we institutionalise a new kind of teacher education through open and distance learning (ODL); a system that can connect with knowledge and skill wherever it is in the world.

This is one way to bring to our teachers in a timely manner critical skills they need, with little money spent on brick and mortar and the conventional apparatus for housing learning.  Teachers can now be anywhere and be part of a virtual  learning community.

ODL will create opportunities for the large number of teachers who require further and continuous education. This has been demonstrated by some of the mega universities around the world, universities with enrolment over 100,000 students.

What the Open University movement around the world has demonstrated is that teaching and learning of quality can go on without the buildings, without requiring students to leave their communities and their families and their responsibilities in order to learn.

We should resort to the use of several ICT-driven tools – e-Learning (electronic learning), m-Learning (mobile learning), and u-Learning (ubiquitous learning)- to enhance the skills and knowledge of our teachers. Adopting these tools will add quality, reduce overall costs, and raise the profile of our teacher education programmes in Africa.

Africa will loose momentum if we fail to move ICT to centre-stage in the education of our teachers. . It behooves on all major stakeholders (end users, ISPs, network operators, regulators, equipment vendors, etc.) to be part of this crusade.

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