centuries education meant people talking and listening: teachers
talking to students, students listening to teachers, sometimes
teachers listening to students. The invention of the world's
first alphabet in Greece, followed after a millennium and
a half by the development of printing in China, Korea, and
later Germany, mean that fortunate students can now also use
blackboards and books. Over the last 150 years new communication
technologies have brought new opportunities. Railways and
cars meant that teachers could travel, allowing the walls
of the university to stretch to the borders of the state.
Cheap rapid mail and lowered paper costs made correspondence
education possible. Educational broadcasting followed. Computers
have come into the classroom. A rich variety of experience
has been matched by a baffling coining of new terminology:
telematics, educational technology, new information and communication
technologies, open learning, distance education, computer-based
learning, and more. This paper sets out and assesses the record
of using these technologies to support basic education.
from three principles. First, there is no substitute for school.
Children need to learn within a social environment and there
is ample evidence that those who do not get to school are
at a disadvantage when compared with those who do. It follows
that the major role of the various technologies is to strengthen
school, not to provide an alternative to it. Care must be
taken not to compromise existing school provision by the diversion
of much-needed resources. But, second, many adults and some
children cannot get to school; technologies may have a role
to play in meeting their needs. Third, it makes sense to look
at the technologies together - from print to radio to computers
- both because of the blurring of the engineering distinctions
between them and because of the need to make allocation decisions
in which the decision-maker often asks whether to bother with
any of these technologies - and if so which - or to stick
with salaries, chalk and a few books. That said, there is
a useful practical distinction between the production of books
for schools (the subject of a different thematic study) and
these other technologies. The book industry is well established,
well understood, and occupies a well-illuminated niche in
the educational system. The other technologies are newer and
more complex and marked by sharp divisions of opinion between
sceptics and enthusiasts.
definitions come from various sources and have got some acceptability
technology is the systematic planning of teaching and learning
within a process that compares the appropriateness of alternative
methodologies as means of achieving defined learning outcomes.
education is an educational process in which a significant
proportion of the teaching is conducted by someone removed
in space and/or time from the learner.
is an organised educational activity, based on the use of
teaching materials, in which constraints on study are minimised
in terms either of access, or of time and place, pace, method
of study, or any combination of these.
learning is the use of computers in education either to provide
programs that deliver instruction, or to facilitate communication
between learner and tutor, or to enable students to have access
to remote sources of information.
is the combined use of telecommunication and computer technology.
technologies, and information and communication technologies,
are synonyms for telematics.
distance learning is an umbrella term covering distance education,
open learning, and the use of telematics in education.
the choice of terminology is shaped by geography. In North
America the words 'distance education' are likely to be used
mainly for video-conferencing or computer-conferencing while
in Africa, Asia and Europe they are more likely to refer to
the use of print or broadcasting. 'Open learning', with its
implicit value judgements about opening access, is used more
in industrialised than developing countries. 'Open and distance
learning' has been adopted by the European Commission as a
marker for projects that may attract funding; the term has,
understandably, gained currency in Europe.
reported defined basic learning needs; we use the term 'basic
education' to cover any educational service that aims to meet
learning needs comprise both essential learning tools (such
as literacy, oral expression, numeracy, and problem solving)
and the basic learning content (such as knowledge, skills,
values, and attitudes) required by human beings to be able
to survive, to develop their full capacities, to live and
work in dignity, to participate fully in development, to improve
the quality of their lives, to make informed decisions, and
to continue learning. The scope of basic learning needs and
how they should be met varies with individual countries and
cultures, and inevitably, changes with the passage of time.
taking basic education to include the primary cycle, together
with the junior-secondary cycle at least where this is becoming
part of universal education, and equivalence programmes out
of school. A broad definition of basic education will also
include nonformal activities for adult from literacy work
to some of the activities of extension agencies.
LIMITS AND METHODOLOGY
have to be drawn in a report of this scale and we have excluded
from discussion the use of technology in the management of
basic education (either at ministry of education or at school
level) and private out-of-school teaching.
the thematic analysis of developments from 1990-2000 are drawn
from variety of sources. The main ones are:
provided by some of the UNESCO Regional Technical Advisory
and web-based searches of specialist databases, including
the International Centre for Distance Learning (ICDL), the
International Extension College specialist collection, ERIC,
the International Development Information Network (IDIN)
including UNESCO, UNICEF, FAO, WHO, ILO, IIEP and the World
donor agencies, including DFID, USAID, CIDA and SIDA
and development think-tanks, and agencies, including AED,
IIR, EDC, ADEA
with professional organisations in basic education, open and
distance learning, communication technologies and broadcasting
and meetings with professionals in the field
basic education research project reports and publications
at the International Research Foundation for Open Learning
agencies, including the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth
the report we consider questions of gender and of access to
technology for different groups within society. While our
main concern is with developing-country experience we have
also taken some account of industrialised country experience
both for breadth of coverage and because of the relevance
of some northern experience to the solution of southern problems.
STRUCTURE OF THE REPORT
reviews the use of open and distance learning to support basic
education ten years ago (section two), examines and assesses
the current state of play (section three and four), considers
costs and conditions of success (section five), and then proposes
lines of development for the next decade (section six).
to set these discussions in context we can distinguish a number
of different uses of open and distance learning to support
can be classified into eight groups which are set out in table
1.1. Computers have been used to provide part of the curriculum,
although on only a limited scale at primary level, for more
than ten years. More recently they have been used as a means
of communication, allowing access to databases and links between
schools. School broadcasting is older and has been attracting
little research interest. Interactive Radio Instruction is
a variant, sponsored by USAID, which has proved effective
but not always sustainable. Open-learning techniques, many
of them mainly dependent on print and/or broadcasting, have
been widely used at this level on a modest scale and, in a
handful of countries, on a much larger scale, although there
is more experience at secondary than at primary level. Distance
education has been applied to teacher training, and there
are the beginnings of the use of Internet technologies to
support teacher training. Finally, extension agencies and
non-government organisations are using the technologies for
a wide range of non-formal programmes.
1.1: Some uses of information and communication technology