Institute of Distance and Continuing Education History This Week
By Tota C. Mangar
Stabroek News
August 10, 2006

Related Links: Articles on history
Letters Menu Archival Menu

Following the upgrading and expansion of the Department of Extra Mural Studies into the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (lACE) in l983 the entity under the dynamic leadership of its Director, Mr. Samuel Small, began in earnest to fulfill its mandate. The Institute's Distance Teaching Division quickly became involved in the weekly radio Programme "University-on-the-Air."

In 1985 through the auspices of the Public Service Ministry and the Australian Development Associate Bureau, the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education was able to send a staff member on a ten-week intensive distance education training course in Australia. In the very year an investigative study of the national facilities for the delivery and receipt of audio programmes conducted by visiting consultant, Mr. Ed Hattar, suggested that there was need to find an alternative medium for the delivering of core materials.

Surveys and other forms of investigation yielded information which suggested that a convenient delivery mode would be print, supplemented by audio materials and some face-to-face tutorials.

In 1988 a proposal for the establishment of a Distance Education Unit was prepared by the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education. This proposal was approved by the Academic Policy and Planning Committee and the Academic Board of the University of Guyana.

After acquiring the information needed to determine scope, structure and content of the programmes of the Distance Education Unit, the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education undertook the task of training writers and other resource persons drawn from its own staff as well as staff of the wider university community and the Ministry of Education.

This was in keeping with the instructional policy of involving relevant groups in all facets of the programme in an attempt to ascertain congruence between the educational strategies and the socio-economic content.

The initial training was conducted in workshops hosted by the Institute's Distance Education personnel and resource persons within the Ministry of Education. Later, as the programme began to attract funding from international agencies, a number of workshops were conducted by foreign consultants and opportunities were provided for all Distance Education staffers to receive training at reputable institutions overseas.

From the inception, the training activities targeted all categories of resource persons required for distance education programmes namely, writers, and potential presenters of audio-visual materials, tutors/markers, administrators and clerical staff. All local training made full use of participatory methods, engaging trainees in the production of, or interaction with, actual course materials.

Four international bodies made valuable contributions to the work and development of the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education. These were the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Organizational of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In the case of the Commonwealth of Learning, it facilitated the visit of Professor John Turner of Manchester University to undertake a Project Identification Consultancy on Distance Education in Guyana. Turner's 1989 Report recommended to the Commonwealth of Learning that despite many identifiable problems, "distance education may be the only way of extending opportunities to those who are currently deprived of them."

In April, 1990 Dr Dennis Irvine, a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Guyana, along with Mr. Quigley were delegated by the then President of the Commonwealth of Learning, Mr. James Maraj, to explore a preliminary request from the University of Guyana for assistance from the Commonwealth of Learning, aimed at developing distance education in Guyana. These officials subsequently submitted a proposal for the establishment of a Guyana Distance Education Communication Network with the following objectives:

. To further extend beyond Georgetown to the population at large in Guyana access to the educational facilities of the University of Guyana's Institute of Adult and Continuing Education.

. To develop and deliver distance education, as a priority, a prerequisite entrance course aimed at ensuring that the new entrants have the necessary background for success, particularly during the first few years of University study.

. To develop and deliver by distance education, a programme to upgrade the skills of teachers, and

. To allow, the population at large to benefit more directly from the valuable resource, that is, the University of Guyana, through improved access to those more general educational and information programmes that would have the effect of assisting human resources development on a countrywide scale.

Under the terms of University of Guyana - Commonwealth of Learning agreement, the Institute acquired three micro-computers equipped with processing and desk-top publishing capabilities to facilitate in-house production of printed materials, an audiotape reproduction unit to enable rapid preparation of multiple copies of supplementary audio-materials, and teleconferencing facilities comprising five teleconferencing sets and a teleconferencing bridge to make it possible for students located in outlying areas to participate in supplementary review sessions with their course writers.

The institute of Adult and Continuing Education launched its first Distance Education programme in Region 10, on November 7, 1992, the second in Region 6 at the J.C Chandisingh School on June 4, 1993, and third in Region 2 at the Anna Regina Secondary School on Saturday, December 4, 1993. It took the form of a Pre-University English Course.

In 1996 alone, the enrolment in the Distance Education Programme was six hundred and five (605), with occupations and qualifications of course participants varying widely. Among them were policemen, nurses, tradesmen, and housewives, the unemployed and even individuals who held degrees but wished to improve their language proficiency.

The Institute has always been conscious of the importance of distance education since:

. Distance Education all-ows the University to maximize the influence of the knowledge and skills of that small group of professionals in meeting some of the educational needs of the population scattered across the coastland, riverain, and interior areas.

. Distance Education relies on pre-packed materials prepared by teams of highly trained professionals. It can provide standardized and high quality education to persons scattered throughout the