Distance Learning and the Building of New Knowledge Societies

Of special interest to small islands is experimentation and innovative practice in the application of information and communications technologies (ICTs) and distance education technologies in the fields of education and building new knowledge societies. ICTs are considered both as a necessity and as an opportunity, since they offer the potential to expand the scope of learning, breaking through traditional constraints of space and time as well as through the boundaries of current education systems.

In line with para 79 of the Mauritius Strategy, activities include the Caribbean Universities Project for Integrated Distance Education (CUPIDE), aimed at providing improved ICT and distance education technologies for five universities across the Caribbean, including the regional University of the West Indies. Support is being provided to national capacity building projects involving distance education and ICTs in Cape Verde, Mauritius, Sao Tome & Principe and other small-island nations.

Higher education institutions in Cyprus and Malta are among those taking part in the Avicenna virtual campus to promote ICT-assisted open distance learning in the Mediterranean region.

In the Pacific, continued development of science communication practices – through formal education as well as public debate and the media – is being approached through workshops, training courses, electronic exchanges and website development, in a partnership between the UNESCO Apia Office and the Centre for Public Awareness of Science of the Australian National University. On 2-3 November 2005, the Centre facilitated the second Pacific interactive science learning and communication workshop, held in Suva (Fiji) and hosted by Live & Learn Environmental Education. Attended by teacher educators, curriculum developers and other education professionals, it is expected that the workshop will be followed up with further related events in 2006-2007.

Joint activities with the Commonwealth of Learning include a publication on Lifelong Learning and Distance Higher Education, which provides an overview of the challenges, problems and potential of distance higher education at its current stage of development.

Additional information on distance education is accessible through such sites as Education and ICTs.

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