UNESCO Learning Without Frontiers
Distance Education for the Nine High-population Countries









Paris, 14 April 1994


About this document


A brief overview of major advantages of distance education and of conditions governing successful implementation of distance education interventions, highlighting relevant experiences of the nine high-population countries.

Purpose of the concept paper
Distance education: potential and requirements
Relevant experience of the nine countries
Meeting basic learning needs of the unreached
Teacher training and upgrading for EFA
Reinforcing the quality and capacity of formal education


A tentative overview of initial activities and expected outcomes to promote the Joint Initiative on Distance Education of the nine high-population countries through concrete action.

The E9 distance education initiative: Spearheading innovation and change
Expected outcomes


This concept paper is intended to serve as a guide for further, more specific and more detailed developments in the framework of the Joint Initiative on Distance Education taken by Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan, the nine selected high-population countries comprising more than half the world's population and almost three quarters of its illiterates. The paper consists of two parts.

The first part of the paper gives the background of the nine country initiative and outlines the purpose of the concept paper in relation to it.
It also describes distance education in terms of its potential as well as the required conditions for that potential to be reached, highlighting some of the major and most successful areas of application in the developing world.
Relevant experiences in the area of distance education of the nine countries themselves, and occasionally of other countries as well, are described under three different headings:

It should be noted that no attempt has been made in this section to cover in full the often impressive range of distance education experiences in the nine countries.

The second part of the paper provides a first outline of how the nine-country initiative is to be promoted through concrete action. By nature of the process, and considering the early stage of development of the initiative, this part is still very brief. The importance of the initiative is highlighted in this section, the idea of partnership to support the initiative is stressed and arguments are given why collaboration in distance education between these nine countries is relevant. Part two also lists expected outcomes of the initiative and finally, from the perspective of the informal planning meeting held in Manila in February 1994, presents a tentative plan of activities for the nearby future with, in some cases, possible extension in the long run. A more specific plan of activities, concentrating on both collaborative efforts and national action in each of the countries, can only be developed after initial activities proposed in this concept paper have been executed and the countries will have acquired insight into what they have to offer to each other and what strengths and weaknesses each of them has. Part 2 therefore also serves to awaken the interest of possible financial and professional partners in providing assistance to the nine countries.



Nine countries, comprising more than half the world's population, can together make a great contribution to achieving the global EFA goals.

At the invitation of three UN agencies, i.e. the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the leaders of nine selected high-population developing nations came together in New Delhi, India, from 13 to 16 December 1993. The nine countries in question, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, and Pakistan, comprise more than half the world's population, including 72 % of the world's illiterates. Because of their particular demographic situation it should be expected that making a dent into the educational situation in these countries will constitute a quantum leap in reaching the global aims set at Jomtien in 1990 during the World Conference on Education for All in universalizing access to education and combatting illiteracy. The meeting in New Delhi was therefore an important occasion. It allowed the nine to reaffirm their commitment to the Jomtien goals and to discuss and propose action to reach them. It is assumed that what will happen in the nine selected high-population countries will serve as a catalyst for developments elsewhere.

The Delhi Declaration by the nine high-population countries constitutes a reaffirmation of their commitment to the Jomtien goals.

During their summit meeting in December 1993, the leaders of the nine high-population countries adopted the Delhi Declaration and Framework for Action. They highlighted access to basic education, both for children and adults, gender equity, and quality of education, focussing on relevant learning achievements, as key issues in the area of Education for All (EFA). In order to attend to these issues, all possible resources require to be mobilized and society, at different levels of decentralization, needs to get involved in the organization and management of the educational endeavour.

Distance education is identified by the nine as an important modality through which the countries can make significant advances, working collaboratively, to reaching EFA goals.

In looking at how they could attend to the above issues in a collaborative fashion, the nine countries reached agreement in New Delhi on a Joint Initiative on Distance Education. This is formulated in the Delhi Framework for Action as follows:

The nine countries have agreed to work in collaboration on a distance education initiative, both to enhance training of teachers and other personnel, and to better reach neo-literates and marginalized groups. The initiative will be tailored to the specific needs and traditions of each country, to enhance existing efforts and to make use of new technologies. In turn, relevant international agencies will be ready to support, facilitate, and coordinate such an initiative by undertaking assessment studies, by holding meetings, by capacity building modalities, and by seeking financial sources of support.

In the Manila meeting, which followed the Delhi summit, desirable outcomes are defined and an initial plan of action is developed to translate the Joint Initiative on Distance Education of the nine countries into concrete action.

Following the Joint Initiative on Distance Education by the nine countries, an informal planning meeting was held in Manila, Philippines, from 17 to 19 February, 1994. The meeting was organized by UNESCO, the lead agency for follow-up to the Delhi summit, with the kind collaboration of the Regional Center for Educational Innovation and Technology (INNOTECH) of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO). Seven of the nine countries participated, along with representatives of the three UN agencies concerned and invited resource persons (Annex 1). Some of the experience of Brazil and Mexico, the two countries which were unable to attend, could be brought in through expert knowledge of the resource persons who had been invited. The Manila meeting was basically an opportunity to initiate the dialogue among the nine countries on the important issue of how the Joint Initiative on Distance Education, emanated from the Delhi meeting, could be translated into action, both collaboratively and nationally. During the meeting countries shared their experience in distance education, clarified what they saw as possible opportunities for collaborative action, defined desirable outcomes of the Joint Initiative, and developed strategies and an initial plan of actions to achieve these outcomes. Importantly, also, the meeting clearly endorsed the focus on basic education for the Joint Initiative on Distance Education of the nine countries. Against the background of existing tendencies to think of distance education in the first place as an option for tertiary education, this focus constitutes an interesting challenge, requiring careful thought of what kind of adjustments might be necessary in addressing the needs of audiences different from those traditionally following distance education programmes. The current document draws on the results of the Manila meeting.


This concept paper presents the shared views of the nine countries on how the Joint Initiative on Distance Education should be translated into action. It also serves to mobilize funds for this purpose.

In this concept paper the main results of the Manila meeting will be presented. In the process of its preparation it has benefited from feedback given by the participating countries and invited resource persons. It represents the shared views of the nine countries on the process of how the Joint Initiative on Distance Education should develop and eventually impact on improved access, greater equity and enhanced quality of learning at the basic level. It will serve as a reference document for the formulation of future actions in the area of the Joint Initiative. It will also serve to alert agencies at this early stage to opportunities for investments that are particularly interesting, as their benefits may reach more than half the world's population.


Distance education can reach people who would otherwise be deprived of opportunities to learn. It does so making use of media (often including print as a dominant channel) to communicate between teacher and learner.

Distance education has been defined by Perraton (1986) as "an educational process in which a significant proportion of the teaching is conducted by someone removed in space and time from the learner." The link between that "someone" and the learner is provided by different means of communication and instructional support. As a mediated form of instruction, distance education can reach people in circumstances in which they would otherwise be deprived of opportunities to learn. Such circumstances can be determined by physical distance, i.e. geographical remoteness, but also by such factors as cultural context, societal expectations, organizational or infrastructural conditions, or indeed by personal constraints that block access to education. In the early stages of the development of distance education most, if not all, of the instructional message was delivered to the learner using the print medium, instructional text being designed in such a way that it would guide the student through the various steps of an autonomous learning process.

Two-way communication is essential for effective distance learning. This, as well as ways for students to communicate with each other, can break the sense of isolation of the distance learner and contribute to active participation of the student in the learning process.

For the learning process to be effective, it should provide ways in which the distant learner can communicate back to the distant teacher. This allows the student to play an active role in her/his own learning, an essential requirement for learning to be effective, and it helps overcome the sense of isolation the student naturally has in a distance education environment. Broadening the communication environment to include student-student interaction besides student-teacher interaction constitutes a further improvement of the system. The most common way in which the learner can communicate back to the distance teacher involves again the written word. Learners at a distance are often required to submit written responses to assignments included in their course material. This allows the student to receive corrective feedback and the centre to monitor his or her progress. Face-to-face tutoring, telephone tutoring or more sophisticated forms of communication between the learner and the distance education provider constitute alternatives or enhancements of that process. Newsletters, telephone or computer networks constitute means of broadening the communication environment to also include student-student interaction.

Besides print, many developing countries have found radio to also be a powerful and cost-effective medium.

Print is still the dominant channel of communication in most distance education systems. The quality of its design as an instructional tool has much improved over time, thereby contributing to the increased effectiveness of distance learning. However, other media have been added to the spectrum of possibilities to communicate between the student and the centre. In a literature review comparing the use of the various non-print media at the primary level in developing countries, Anzalone (1987) concludes that particularly radio can increase access to and improve the quality of instruction.

Radio is sometimes combined with face-to-face tutoring.
Some countries use TV as well for instructional purposes.

In being used for these purposes, radio is often combined with print material. The three-way combination of print, radio and face-to-face teaching is another variety which has been used with considerable results (Dodds and Mayo, 1992). The success of instructional television as a cost-effective option is less widely reported, though some countries use it extensively, sometimes employing satellite technology.

Use of a media mix is normally more effective than distance education via a single medium.

Technological developments have greatly increased the number of media options currently available (Hancock, 1993). However, not necessarily can all of the available media be used in viable ways in developing countries. Hancock argues that their development is driven primarily by market forces. Such forces do not always run parallel to the interests of developing nations. In any case, whatever the choices available in a particular context, combining a range of different media and using each medium according to its particular strength, e.g. print, radio, audio and video cassettes in combination with telephone and face-to-face tutoring, is likely to add to the effectiveness of the system.

Distance education, in order to be effective, requires a sound organizational infrastructure.
Benefits can be derived from embedding distance education in the holistic framework of the overall educational system and from linking it institutionally to other educational institutions.

Distance education, however, is about more than just media. At least as important as the choice of the most appropriate media and ways of using them is the requirement of a sound organizational infrastructure in which they should be embedded. Such an infrastructure is essential to manage the different flows of information and to provide support to the learner, whose sense of isolation may otherwise greatly hamper the learning process. Moreover, setting up an adequate infrastructure is also required to support the logistics and administration involved in delivering education at a distance and providing feedback to the student. Not working in isolation, i.e. conceiving a distance education institution as part of the larger educational system and its concerns, linking its institutional base to other organizational institutions which it can influence and through which it can be influenced, is a healthy option, which will also effectively contribute to distance education acquiring parity of esteem with other educational endeavours.

Face-to-face tutoring and the inclusion in the organizational infrastructure of the distance education system of learning resource centres, can be an important contribution to delivering distance education more effectively.

Tutoring the learners in a face-to-face mode through occasional seminars or by requiring students to complete certain parts of their course work in a residential facility, has been found to improve greatly the quality of the distance education system. Further opportunities for students to interact with each other and with their teacher(s) can be provided if adequately equipped learning resource centres are created and mechanisms designed into the system to encourage and ensure adequate use of such facilities by the learner.

Good instructional design, involving sound planning and adequate formative evaluation, based on learner feedback, is key to quality distance education.

Good design of the instruction is paramount to the success of education offered at a distance. Once the instruction is out, there will be no way to check on what its effects are and to control for possible deficiencies in an immediate sense. Quality control is therefore very much a front-end activity. Good instructional design requires sound knowledge of the audience in terms of prerequisite knowledge and skills as well as its various characteristics and the conditions that may influence how well it will be able to learn from the instruction provided. Careful planning, based on sound knowledge of who is going to learn what, by what means, in what kind of circumstances, to what effect and with what purpose in mind, needs to be combined with effective ways to ensure, through formative evaluation based on feedback from the learner, that intended purposes are met.

Economies of scale often times position distance education as a more economical solution to educational problems than traditional ways of delivering education.

The above means that the preparation of distance education is a complex process, requiring highly developed skills and considerable investments at the outset. Its development costs are high. Thanks to the large audiences normally targeted by distance education, however, such high development costs can be spread over many individual users so that the unit cost per learner comes still out very favourably in comparison with teacher assisted instruction. In fact, thanks to the economies of scale that often apply to distance education systems, this mode of educational delivery is often to be preferred on economic grounds to the more costly alternative of setting up or expanding conventional forms of educational delivery.

Community participation, strengthening of local communication networks and the maintenance of sustainable support systems are key elements in successful approaches that put essential knowledge and life skills at the disposal of all families, using today's increased communication capacity.

The World Summit for Children (September 1990) has stressed that "in addition to the expansion of primary education and its equivalents, today's essential knowledge and life skills could be put at the disposal of all families by mobilizing today's increased communications capacity." Mayo and Chieuw (1993) emphasize in this regard the essential link, and the need for balanced resource allocation, between learning and communication. Various Third Channel approaches, as embraced under the notions of popular education, development communication and social mobilization, can greatly enhance educational development. Successful Third Channel approaches draw, among other things, on community participation, strengthening of local communication networks, and the maintenance of sustainable support systems.

Planning for sustainability, taking into account the whole picture of educational concerns, is a key requirement for successful distance education.

It should be borne in mind that distance education is not a cheap panacea for existing educational problems. It is a choice, or rather a set of choices, among a variety of alternatives. Success of distance education solutions is contingent upon their being an integrated part of educational policies, investment plans and the creation of budgetary mechanisms to meet recurrent costs if these are not to be recovered from the end users. As distance education projects, because of their relatively high development costs, often get started on external funding, it is of key importance to plan for sustainability in the local context.

Distance education has contributed to human development in ways not met through conventional approaches in such areas as teacher education, adult basic education, educating the unreached, interactive radio, out-of-school secondary education, and tertiary education.

Reaching the unreached, training and upgrading of teachers, particularly those that cannot be removed from their posts for lengthy periods of time, reaching directly into the classroom and reinforcing the teacher's role through interventions, like Interactive Radio Instruction, which support both the student and the teacher, providing learning opportunities at the basic level to adults in areas relevant to their ability to make the most out of their situation and to contribute to the development of their society, opening alternative routes to learning for out-of-school youths, particularly at the secondary level, expanding higher education at a cost far below what would be required for conventional approaches, these are some of the areas in which distance education has contributed in unprecedented ways to human development through education.

Turning the Joint Initiative on Distance Education by the nine countries into reality can mean an important leap forward at the global level towards providing opportunities for quality learning for all at all times.

The Joint Initiative by the nine high-population countries is supported by evidence that, provided due attention is given to creating conditions for sustainability, distance education can help accelerate the process of reaching important Jomtien goals. It can also contribute significantly to inserting flexibility into otherwise much more rigorous educational systems, an element so dramatically needed in modern societies, whether in the industrialized or the developing world, to provide opportunities for life-long learning. It is furthermore a modality which often spearheads innovation and change, thereby contributing to improved overall quality of education. In view of the large numbers included in the audiences that can be covered by the nine countries, a significant dent can be made at the global level in creating the conditions for learning for all and at all times if what now is an initiative can be turned into reality.


The nine countries share important experiences in distance education which form an important basis for their collaborative initiative.

The nine high-population countries share among themselves a considerable number of relevant experiences. These experiences are normally different for each of them. However, they often reflect degrees of success that encourage other countries to look at such experiences as possible models for their own development. What the nine countries have done and still will do is likely to be influential for developments elsewhere in the world. Some of the most relevant experiences in distance education in the nine countries will therefore be presented below. Reference will also be made to one case of inter-country cooperation, not involving the nine, but with possible relevance for at least one of them.

MEETING BASIC LEARNING NEEDS OF THE UNREACHED is a key concern among several of the nine high-population countries. They have developed innovative approaches, using distance education, to address these needs.

Several of the nine high population countries use different forms of distance education to meet the basic learning needs of those who would otherwise remain unreached. In India, for instance, the National Open School plays a key role in the process of universalizing basic education for all, in enhancing equity and social justice and in creating a learning society. Indonesia's "Packet A" and Pakistan's Allama Iqbal Open University are similarly innovative in serving those unreached by the formal school.

The National Open School in India provides open access to education to students of all ages over 14 in courses concentrating on academic, vocational or life-enrichment skills.

The National Open School offers free choices from among a wide range of both academic and vocational courses to students who frequently opt for different combinations of the two areas. In addition, it offers courses for life enrichment and bridging courses at the entry level. It caters for students of all ages over 14 and has succeeded to attract women to the extent that they make up 38 % of its enrollment. Marginalized groups in general, including women, comprise over 50 % of its enrollment. In making use of the different media, it puts great emphasis on quality aspects of the technology of text, but does not shy away from more advanced technologies, such as instructional television and audio and video programmes for enrichment purposes, in addition to face-to-face contact with the students. Its unit cost is less than a quarter of the cost per student in the formal school. By making use of the existing school network to serve its students, it benefits from that infrastructure at the same time that it enriches it by bringing in facilities not normally available to the schools. Its courses are offered in English and a variety of local languages.

"Packet A" is a mainly print based intervention developed by Indonesia to cater for the needs of out-of-school learners. It has greatly benefited women. It takes advantage of human resources available in the community, which it mobilizes according to the each-one-teach-ten principle.

Indonesia's "Packet A", a mainly print based intervention, concentrates on action for learning at the grassroots' level, attending to the needs of out-of-school learners as an integrated component of the overall educational concerns of the country. Its leading principle is to motivate any available educating power in the community, combining face-to-face tutorials with self-instructional modules. Under the "each-one-teach-ten" principle, its benefits rapidly multiply. Eight million students are reported to have been trained nation-wide through "Packet A", 60 % of which are women. The package, equivalent to formal primary education, provides literacy training while at the same time catering for post-literacy needs. The package de-emphasizes purely academic concerns in favour of covering relevant science issues and concentration on life skills.

The Allama Iqbal OU in Pakistan reaches out to students in their homes and places of work, wherever they are. It teaches at a distance, using mainly text based materials, supplemented by radio and TV, in conjunction with services provided through learning resource centres. For non-literates, it has developed a distance education system based on cassettes, flip-charts, outreach infrastructure and training of trainers.

Pakistan's Allama Iqbal Open University reaches its students where they are, i.e. in their homes or in the work place, anywhere in the country, any time of the year. In its efforts to meet the basic learning needs of all, it targets, among other audiences, rural non-literates, particularly women, offering literacy courses and functional skills training. For its regular range of distance education courses, which range upwards to the level of degree courses, the Allama Iqbal Open University supplies its students with complete, self-instructional packages that are mainly text based but may also include audio cassettes. Radio and TV programmes supplement the packages, which include self-assessment instruments and written assignments for students to submit and receive feedback on. Students receive tutorial support from teachers appointed for that purpose in their own locality. The system also includes study centres, offering the students a variety of learning resources and an environment that facilitates contact with tutors and fellow students, as well as regional offices and a main campus. To reach the non-literates, the normal distance education methodology had to be adapted. The methodology developed for the university's Basic Functional Education Programme uses packages consisting of cassettes and flip-charts and concentrates on developing infrastructure for outreach and training of trainers.

TEACHER TRAINING AND UPGRADING FOR EFA is another key area on which distance education efforts of a number of the nine high-population countries have concentrated. It allows teachers to continue to attend to the needs of their children while they receive training themselves.

Several of the nine high-population countries have developed interesting experiences in the area of training and up-grading of teachers at a distance, thereby indirectly contributing to the advancement of important Education For All goals. Distance education can typically address training needs of people who cannot be removed from their regular duties for long periods of time to participate in residential training courses. In many developing nations, including the nine, Ministries of Education are confronting the challenge of having to improve the quality of their teaching force while not being able to give teachers time off as their duties towards their pupils come first. Distance education is the natural choice in such circumstances. It offers the additional advantage that trainees can start applying what they learn almost immediately. Their work environment is their training laboratory. Distance education has been used in this context to target teachers who have been in the profession for many years and whose competence needs updating. Another application has been in cases where, under the pressure to meet the rapidly expanding demand for education, untrained teachers were integrated in the teaching force while being trained at the same time. While not part of the nine, the Zimbabwe Integrated Teacher Education Course (ZINTEC) is a case in point. Zimbabwe has successfully used this modality following the country's attaining independence in 1980.

China reaches out to remote and disadvantaged areas of its territory using educational radio and television.

China has used mass communication media for educational purposes since 1958. It has 170 Radio and TV schools at the secondary level and 43 Radio and TV universities with 575 learning centers and 1500 teaching points. China Educational TV distributes programmes, including those produced by the China TV Teachers College, via satellite to all parts of the country. Local educational TV stations and satellite relay stations rebroadcast the received programmes. They also broadcast locally produced ones. The medium is reported to have an especially remarkable impact in remote and disadvantaged areas. During six years 1.2 million primary and secondary school teachers participated in the courses offered via this channel.

China's Teacher Training through Distance Education project yields quick returns and saves cost in upgrading unqualified teachers in rural areas and minority regions through the use of educational television.

Of particular interest is the Teacher Training through Distance Education project, in which local governments in China cooperate with UNICEF in setting up TV relay stations, receiving stations and teaching points to attend to the needs of unqualified teachers. The programme has in mind that 1.5 million school teachers, out of five million, did not meet the national requirements in 1989. A large number of these teachers live in rural areas and minority regions. The project targets specifically 26 counties which are particularly behind in their development of education and aims at correcting the situation through the use of educational TV, in conjunction with the existing infrastructure of the counties' Normal Schools, to upgrade the teachers' qualifications. Cost savings and rapid returns on investment are reported among the successes of the project.

Nigeria remedies insufficiencies of the conventional teacher training system, offering teacher training at a distance at a variety of institutions.

The regular teacher training system in Nigeria has failed to produce sufficiently qualified teachers in large enough numbers. To remedy the situation it uses distance education. The government supported National Teachers Institute enrolls 40000 students. Different universities, such as Ahmado Bello, in operation since 1976, offer teacher training at a distance programmes to smaller numbers of students.

Teacher training at a distance is the largest programme at Pakistan's Allama Iqbal Open University.

Similarly, at the Allama Iqbal Open University in Pakistan teacher training at a distance is by far the largest programme. It trained 47000 teachers in six months time through its Primary Teacher Orientation course.

Attending to the needs of the education sector through training at a distance laid the groundwork for the Bangladesh Open University.

The Bangladesh Open University contributes to building up the country's educational potential, using distance education means, by offering Bachelor of Education and Master of Education courses. In fact, the B.Ed. at a distance programme was the beginning of the Bangladesh Open University, which now has a much broader objective and offers a wide range of courses. It aims at creating an educated and trained work force by providing learning/training opportunities to people at all levels, having in mind particularly disadvantaged rural youths, including girls, who have been deprived of formal education and training.

Egypt has a declared interest in teacher training at a distance.

Egypt considers distance education an important means to achieve educational reform goals, as well as to expedite the process of reaching the unreached and to improve the quality of education. In that context, upgrading teacher education, both in a pre-service and in-service context, is a priority concern for the country's distance education programme.

REINFORCING THE QUALITY AND CAPACITY OF FORMAL EDUCATION is yet another area in which distance education has contributed in important ways to the development of education. Brazil and Mexico represent cases in point.

Distance education means have been used extensively to reinforce the formal education system, which is often hampered by deficient teacher quality and lack of capacity to accommodate the ever growing demand for schooling in developing countries. Both Mexico (Radio Primaria and Telesecundaria) and Brazil (Cursos Supletivos and various other programmes) have extensive experience in setting up mechanisms, using different media, to increase access to the formal curriculum and boost the quality of the teaching process in cost-effective ways.

Interactive Radio Instruction may either reinforce the formal teaching/learning process in the schools or serve as an alternative to it. IRI programmes presuppose active learner participation. Teachers who use the programmes are prompted to adopt themselves teaching styles conducive to active learner participation. Research has shown that IRI is both effective and cost-effective. Five Portuguese speaking countries in Africa develop IRI jointly. Their experience in working at the inter-country level may serve as a model for the nine-country distance education initiative.

Various countries in different parts of the world have developed Interactive Radio Instruction (IRI) as an integrated component of the formal teaching/learning process in the schools and in other cases as an alternative to it. IRI programmes, normally broadcast on a daily basis, provide the classroom process with a quality injection of an innovative nature to reinforce the teaching of core areas of the curriculum. These programmes, which take up only a portion of the class time, are complemented by the teacher. The programmes are based on the principle that students learn best if they are actively involved in the learning process. They follow a methodology which for most teachers is different from their own teaching style and therefore serves them as a model to learn from. Thus the programmes serve both the students and the teacher in different ways. Research has shown that IRI results in dramatic learning gains at a cost per student which is easily offset by the savings resulting from increased internal efficiency. The five African Countries with Portuguese as an Official Language (PALOP) are currently involved, with UNESCO assistance in collaboration with the USAID funded LearnTech project, in the joint development of IRI curriculum materials for Mathematics and Portuguese as a Second Language. Their experience in solving educational problems at the inter-country level may well serve as a model for the collaborative efforts of the nine high-population countries. Brazil may be particularly interested in this experience because of its linguistic ties to the PALOP countries.


The nine high-population countries have presented an important challenge to the world. Their collaborative effort has the power to serve as a catalyst for similar developments in other countries. It should lead to partnerships at the national level and across the countries and mobilize the involvement of players at the international level.

The nine high-population countries share a spectrum of varied experiences, relevant to their commitment to attaining the Jomtien goals, in a leading area of innovation and change, i.e. that of distance education, which holds much promise for the future. Their initiative to collaborate, with a view to further perfecting and sharing their current experience in using learning technologies and different modalities of educational communication, as well as to venture into areas so far left unexplored, has significance beyond the interests of the nine countries themselves. Because of the magnitude of the populations involved, turning the initiative into concrete action will have a mobilizing effect of global meaning that can benefit the world as a whole. It is able to create new patterns of thought, forging new partnerships, opening up educational systems to meet the challenge of providing learning for all and by all. The nine-country distance education initiative constitutes therefore an important challenge to international agencies, such as UNESCO, UNFPA and UNICEF, the three involved in convening the Delhi Summit, development banks, multilateral programmes, bilateral donors, regional development agencies and international NGO's, as well as to the world of professionals, represented by such associations and partnerships at the international level as IMAGE, the International Multi-channel Action Group for Education, and ICDE, the International Council for Distance Education, and indeed key institutions in the public and private sector, to join forces with the nine in an effort affecting more than half the world's population.

The cause for cooperation among and with the nine is underpinned by considerations about:
  • their common challenge of vast distances and large numbers
  • their joint ownership of a range of technologies and know-how
  • their ability to reach unprecedented economies of scale
  • their acceptance of common obstacles and problems as a shared challenge
  • their role in the global EFA movement

The rationale to support the cause for cooperation among the nine high-population countries in the area of distance education can be based on a series of powerful arguments. The nine countries share the challenge of vast distances and large numbers. Together they constitute a considerable potential in terms of ownership of different learning technologies and know-how. They represent a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of one the most prominent features of well developed distance education systems: their capacity to realize economies of scale. While many problems have to be solved and obstacles to be overcome, accepting this challenge as a shared responsibility makes it much more likely that workable solutions will be found. Most importantly, the nine countries are aware of their responsibility not only for more than half of the world's population contained within their borders, but also as major players in the global EFA movement, whose performance will set patterns for others.


Meeting basic learning needs of the unreached is the overall objective.

In considering their cause, particularly in the context of the discussions held during the planning meeting in Manila, the nine countries have defined a range of expected outcomes for their joint initiative in distance education. Meeting the needs of access to and quality of basic learning is seen by them as the long term development goal of their initiative.

To reach the overall objective it is necessary to:
  • accelerate the introduction of DE
  • build institutionalized human capacity
  • use "outside eyes" to see one's own work from the perspective of the nine
  • join hands in developing the field together
  • use pilot DE innovations to improve the formal system.

Five more specific objectives are subsumed under this major goal. They are:

  1. To accelerate the introduction of distance education in those situations where its specific potential can be taken advantage of to advance EFA goals.
  2. To develop a sustainable, institutionalized basis of broadly conceived human competence in the area of distance education in the countries concerned.
  3. To come to improved sharing of experience through mechanisms that allow the involvement of professionals from partner countries in the appreciation of one's own work.
  4. To improve the quality of existing programmes and develop new ones together with the involvement of international partners.
  5. To upgrade and enrich the quality of the formal system through the use of distance education methods, using pilot innovations.

A variety of concerns is instrumental to achieving the objectives set for the E9 distance education initiative.
They pertain to the nature of and mechanisms for cooperation; capacity, institution and programme building; appropriateness of choices; emphasis of aspects of quality and improvement; knowledge building.

The following areas of concern are seen as instrumental to achieve the above objectives:


The activities presented below are essential for the start-up of the project. They will allow countries to reinforce their capacity to allow them to further shape their DE initiative.

A tentative scheme of activities, plotted against a time-line, concentrating on the foreseeable future, is presented below. Several of these activities aim at reinforcing the countries' capacity to further shape their distance education initiative. The plan of activities presented below is thus intended to serve as a reference and a starting point for the development of more elaborate plans of action. It is also a guide for funding agencies who wish to encourage the development of the E9 distance education initiative by providing financial resources. Similarly, it serves to representatives of the professional field as a stimulus to consider their contribution of expertise to the continued development of the initiative.

  • Situation analysis, needs assessment, strategy development by each country (incl. necessary consultations in country; guidelines for comparability)
  • Technical meeting of nine countries (possibly in conjunction with the International Conference on Education, Geneva, October 1994)
  • Study visits to DE success stories by national teams of two, concentrating on nine-nine/South-South exchange of experience
  • Annual meetings of education ministers of nine
  • Develop and initiate a collaborative training/attachment scheme
  • Nine-country hook-up to the Internet
  • Use EFA 2000 newsletter for information on E9 distance education initiative
  • Develop and share videos on DE success stories
  • Assistance to countries to develop new programmes and extend existing ones for submission to funding sources
  • State-of-the-art reviews/presentations on DE technologies (incl. low cost; incl. local support systems)
  • Assessment of specific technical assistance needs of countries and identification and provision of needed TA (esp. South-South)

Funding of elements of the proposed plan of activities will constitute an important contribution to project development in the framework of the Joint Initiative on Distance Education of the nine high-population countries.
The Joint Initiative, and therefore also the funding required for its development, should envisage a two-pronged strategy, focussing on both collaborative efforts and country based action.

It is important to underline that the above list of activities constitutes an essential starting point for the Joint Initiative on Distance Education by the nine high-population countries. The initiative should concentrate on both collaborative efforts and strategies to promote the development of distance education at the national level in each of the countries. Building capacity in the countries for the detailed planning of the initiative is an important prerequisite. The implementation of situation analyses and needs assessments in each of the countries, in conjunction with their developing strategies for the use of distance education to meet basic learning needs, will contribute to that goal. The exchange visits will allow the nine to develop a shared body of knowledge and concerns regarding different distance education options in use. Collaborative training/attachment schemes will further reinforce this aspect. In the same way will interaction through the Internet among the countries contribute to knowledge sharing and joint problem solving. Other mechanisms to share knowledge and concerns are the various meetings, the dissemination of information through the EFA 2000 newsletter and the state-of-the-art reviews and presentations on distance education technologies. Assistance to countries to develop new programmes and extend existing ones and the assessment of their technical assistance needs are specifically geared towards shaping the future of the Joint initiative on Distance Education. To the extent that this document serves as a funding proposal, it therefore calls upon donors to consider at this stage funding of elements of it as a contribution to project development.


Anzalone, S. (1987). Using instructional hardware for primary education in developing countries: A review of the literature. Paper prepared for Harvard University, Basic Research and Implementation in DevelopinG Education Systems (BRIDGES) project under USAID contract DPE-5824-A-5076. Institute for International Research, McLean, VA.

Dodds, T. and Mayo, J.K. (1992). The promise and performance of distance education in developing nations: The IEC experience 1971-1992. Paper presented at the International Extension College's Anniversary Conference, Robinson College, Cambridge, UK, 20-24 September 1992.

Hancock, A. (1993). Contemporary information and communication technologies and education. Working document prepared for the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-first Century, UNESCO, Paris, France.

Mayo, J. K. and Chieuw, J. S. F. (1993). The Third Channel: broadening learning horizons. UNICEF, New York, N.Y.

Perraton, H. ed. (1986). Distance education: An economic and educational assessment of its potential for Africa. World Bank, Washington, D.C.




Mahbubur Rahman (Bangladesh Open University) - Bangladesh
Zhao Yuxia (Dept. of Educational Technology, State Education Commission) - China
Samiha Sidhom Peterson (Advisor, Ministry of Education) - Egypt
Marmar Mukhopadhyay (Chairman, National Open School) - India
W.P. Napitupulu (Executive Chairman, National Commission for UNESCO) - Indonesia
Gideon S. Tseja (Institute of Education, Ahmadu Bello University) - Nigeria
Javaid Iqbal Syed (Allama Iqbal Open University) - Pakistan


Stephen Anzalone, Education Development Center, Washington, DC
Peter McMechan, Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver, BC
Reidar Roll, International Council for Distance Education, Oslo, Norway
Thomas Tilson, Academy for Educational Development, Washington, DC


Charles Currin - Asian Development Bank, Manila, Philippines
Minda Sutaria - Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organization, Regional Center for Educational Innovation and Technology, Manila, Philippines
Dieter Berstecher - UNESCO, Paris, France
Lucille C. Gregorio - UNESCO (PROAP), Bangkok, Thailand
Martin Hadlow - UNESCO, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Victor Ordoñez - UNESCO, Paris, France
Jan Visser - UNESCO, Paris, France
Aida Rita P. Santiago, UNFPA, Manila, Philippines
George Walmsley, UNFPA, Manila, Philippines
Philippe Heffinck, UNICEF, Manila, Philippines
Brenda S. Vigo, UNICEF, Manila, Philippines

For further information:

Learning Without Frontiers
UNESCO, 7 Place de Fontenoy
75352 Paris 07 SP, FRANCE
FAX: 33 1 456 80828

Top of document LWF Home Page LWF Activities LWF Documents LWF Links

Site is maintained