A keynote address by OUM President and Vice-Chancellor Tan Sri Anuwar Ali has made it to the front page of The Hindu.
OUM President and Vice-Chancellor Prof Emeritus Tan Sri Anuwar Ali has urged developing countries to promote higher education through open and distance learning (ODL) to ensure that their people have equitable access to education and can thus better contribute to national economic development and enhanced social status.
In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, the English language daily with the second largest circulation in India, Tan Sri Anuwar said higher education is particularly relevant for Asian countries and should not be considered "elitist and restrictive".
"The growth of ODL in countries like India, China and Malaysia has been highly encouraging but the real challenge is ensuring it remains relevant and responsive to changing trends," said Tan Sri Anuwar, who attended the international workshop together with Prof Dr Shaari Abd Hamid, Deputy Vice President of the Institute for Teaching and Learning Advancement. The workshop was held at the Vardhaman Mahaveer Open University (VMOU) in Kota, Rajasthan, recently.
In his keynote address entitled "Challenges before ODL: Global Perspective", Tan Sri Anuwar said ODL plays a significant role in transforming higher education from an elite privilege to a "democratised opportunity" in Asian countries.
Institutions offering distance education has made it possible for people from varied backgrounds, including those from marginalised groups, senior citizens, working adults and the physically disadvantaged, to partake in higher education and obtain degrees.
Tan Sri Anuwar also said that OUM is willing to collaborate with VMOU to improve the quality of education and make higher education more accessible. "Although student exchange may not be feasible at this stage, both institutions can work together in the area of educational technology."
Acknowledging that India has one of the best established ODL networks in Asia, he said ODL has much to gain from innovations such as the use of web applications, social networking, mobile technologies and open educational resources.
However, issues such as the digital divide and cultural identities could impede the true potential of ODL growth delivery in the less developed regions. The use of ubiquitous technology and its impact on cultural identities remain issues yet to be resolved, while the problem of digital divide still pervades poor countries.
Tan Sri Anuwar emphasised that universities in Asian countries must create the means for their populace, regardless of gender, creed or socio-economic background, to obtain higher education. "ODL institutions must combine flexibility, quality, affordability and accessibility to attract people for further study."
He cited the example of the Commonwealth of Learning for having successfully brought together open universities in the Commonwealth to develop and share ODL knowledge, resources and technology with a focus on helping poor countries over the past two decades.