Institute of Adult and Continuing Education to Institute of Distance and Continuing Education History This Week
By Tota C. Mangar
Stabroek News
December 28, 2006

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In an earlier article I traced the 1983 formation of the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education which essentially was an outgrowth of the Department of Extra Mural Studies within the Former Faculty of Education, University of Guyana. Attention is now focused on the development of the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education into the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education.

In 1985 through the auspices of the Public Service Ministry and the Australian Development Assistance 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 indicated that a convenient 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 programme 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, potential presenters of audio-visual materials, tutor/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 Organisation of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (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 Communi-cation Network with the following objectives.

* To further extend beyond Georgetown to the population at large in Guyana access to the education 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 resource development on a country wide scale.

Under the terms of the University of Guyana - Commonwealth of Learning agreement, the Institute acquired three micro-computers equipped with word processing and desktop publishing capabilities to facilitate in-house production of printed materials, an audio-tape 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, and tradesmen, 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 allows 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 professional. It can provide standardized and high quality education to persons scattered throughout the country.

* It helps the Institute and University to reach those shifts workers, housewives, farmers, and others who may find it impossible to attend traditional classes. In addition distance education has potential economies of scale.

A distance education course which reaches large numbers of persons can do so at lower cost than courses conducted by the traditional face-to-face methods.

The printed material is self-instructional, interactive, relevant and interesting. The student sends completed assignments to a specially trained tutor/maker who corrects mistakes, assists students to develop appropriate skills and provides motivation by praising and encouraging the students.

Face-to-face tutorials are held monthly to support the students, reduce the feeling of isolation and help them develop a more active role in the learning process. Tutor/markers also encourage students to participate in discussion.

Another component, teleconferencing, facilitates discussion and other forms of two-way communication between the course writer who may be at the Georgetown Centre and students in the outlying centres. The Commonwealth of Learning donated a bridge, which links the centre and enables the course writer to discuss problems with students at these centres simultaneously.

Another name change and expansion focus occurred in August 1996 when the Academic Board of the University of Guyana accepted a recommendation of the 1994 Menon Report that the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (IACE) should be extended and reconstituted as well as renamed the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education (IDCE) - the current name.

It is now mandated to assist the University in becoming a dual/mixed mode institution by performing the following functions as contained in the Menon Report.

* Provide help to the academics in deciding the media mix for programmes

* Provide support in the development of course materials

* Develop manpower resources within and outside the University in various aspects of distance education

* Conduct surveys to identify the educational needs of various sections of the community

* Conduct research in generating new knowledge in instructional design delivery

* Develop a repertoire of distance material for purposes of reference, adoption or adaptation by the faculties

* Provide required student support services for the academic programmes

* Administer and monitor the delivery of distance education programmes

These additional functions expand the scope of the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education's programme as it assumes a more pivotal role within the University. Allied to this role is that of change agent for distance education in Guyana.

The Institute of Distance and Continuing Education continues to expand the scope of its programmes, both face-to-face and by distance, with the aim of equipping adults with knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to be able to set and achieve their personal goals, and the goals of society.

Indeed, the Institute of Distance and Continuing Education has provided and continues to provide access to tertiary level education beyond the campus as it moves to positively influence national development.