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Access : 5 Orientations

Access is a key goal of 3 major UNESCO conferences in Hamburg, Seoul and Budapest recently convened by UNESCO. As the concepts of Education For All and of higher education have evolved over the past decade, both now contribute to realizing the ultimate goal of learning throughout life [insert reference!]. The 5 orientations for promoting access are:

  1. Promoting the right to education
  2. Recognizing the needs of cultural and socio-economic groups
  3. Facilitating entry to diverse fields includes technical and vocational training, continuing education and skills development
  4. Realizing the potential of IT to widen access
  5. Strengthening the contribution of higher education to the entire educational system

1. Promoting the right to education

The importance of non-formal education /training and the acquisition of life skills for community development is highlighted. There is also a growing imperative to gain competences related to the workplace, notably for adults whatever their previous level of education. Expanded educational opportunity and diversified provision are accented

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2. Recognizing the needs of cultural and socio-economic groups

Intergovernmental Conference on Cultural Policies for Development (Stockholm 1998) stressed the need for effective strategies to address the issues arising from an increasingly multicultural world. The role of national development policies to promote the empowerment of all citizens, is highlighted.

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3. Facilitating entry to diverse fields includes technical and vocational training, continuing education and skills development

Although wider access is advocated as a public good (OECD 1998) and crucial for poverty reduction in the developing world (World Bank/UNESCO 2000) the realities involved have necessitated rethinking higher education policy including: governance and management structures, funding, teaching and learning, as well as student services.

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4. Realizing the potential of IT to widen access

Educational institutions have clearly been able to emulate other global networks which can shrink time and space to meet demand. In the developing world, the awareness to compete on the global market via virtual learning facilities has been heightened. The challenges of the digital divide have been highlighted through this process. In all parts of the world, more research is required to assess the true quality of the new technological paradigm in education and its ability to respond satisfactorily to current issues of concern to higher education such as regional diversity, co-development, scientific excellence, intellectual property, the compatibility of teaching materials and quality assurance. Every effort must be made to continue exploring the potential of IT to render education and training more widely available.

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5.Strengthening the contribution of higher education to the entire educational system

Because higher education has always been a key motor of social and economic development, it has understood the complexity of change. More recently, the sector (and notably universities) have been urged to demonstrate their relevance through their contribution of expertise to international, national and regional and local development. In fact this relevance is now a recognized indicator of this sector's social accountability. In this way higher education plays its part in the key role of the overall educational enterprise today : preparing to empower citizens to live, work and participate in a democratic and more equitable society.

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