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December 11, 2019

The Call of Distance Education

Union Minister Dr. Myo Thein Gyi delivers the opening speech at the ceremony for the opening of the 3rd Residential School by TIDE at Yangon University in Yangon on May 20, 2019.  PHOTO: MNA
Union Minister Dr. Myo Thein Gyi delivers the opening speech at the ceremony for the opening of the 3rd Residential School by TIDE at Yangon University in Yangon on May 20, 2019.  PHOTO: MNA

Every “semester” the call to Distance Education students goes out from the two Distance Education Universities, one in Yangon and the other in Mandalay, and the 32 regional administrative centres under them, to attend the 600 or so “Learning Centres” mostly located in the Universities, Colleges and other learning facilities under the Ministry of Education. The “semesters” are for a period (about two months or so), of learning and assessment towards a three/four-year course of study leading to a degree in the liberal Arts or Science. It is said that there are a total of some 500,000 “students” enrolled under the higher education “Distance Education” programs. Every year some 60% of all Matriculates, mostly those who do not enter the regular “Day” Universities for some reason or the other, enrol in the Distance Education Universities.
It seems that many who go to their respective “learning centres” to answer the call, are in fact working in places far away from them, mostly in the large cities where they have landed jobs. Many are in fact employed in the public or private sector industries and establishments. At every call, thousands of the these “working students”, ask for “leave of absence” to answer the call and where ever they may be, go in droves to their designated learning centres; because of their desire to get a university degree. This results in temporary understaffing in many offices, establishments, industries. Taking leave of absence is acceptable if there is not much affect on the workplace. After all it is the right of the “ working students” to acquire higher education which might help them in the long run. If the Distance Education can further their status in their occupations, so much the better.
Among those who respond to the call and go to attend the sessions at these learning centres, are “workers” like care givers/nurse aids, sales persons, semi-skilled and skilled workers from hotels, tourism, manufacturing, social services, offices and establishments, companies , business and so on; in short those already in employment. These “working students” would benefit much from higher education if degrees could be awarded in their respective “occupation groups” or “fields” through Distance or Open University courses of study. Being already in employment, they are familiar with, and are in fact practising the hands-on aspect of the occupation. It would be good if the higher education degree they are after could help them to retain and advance in their present occupation.
Towards this end, by way of a suggestion, the Distance Education Universities could perhaps, in addition to the present 19 courses (seven were later additions) offer “vocational courses” leading to Bachelor degrees in the fields like Hotel and Tourism, Good Manufacturing Practises, Culinary Arts, Aged Care, Child Care, Marketing and Retailing, Fashion Design, Office Administration, Logistic Operations, Leadership and Management and so on. Accredited private universities and colleges could also take part in holding such courses within their capacity under public private partnership arrangements with UDE. As I understand it, the UK based Transformation by Innovation in Distance Education (TIDE) is assisting the Myanmar UDE in Training their staff to improve quality of distance education. Perhaps TIDE could help the UDE to link up with the appropriate UK Universities to come up with the new distance education courses mentioned above or similar ones for that matter.
Distance Education Universities in many countries, offer degree courses in the “vocational stream”. They are “skills oriented” Bachelor degree courses such as B.Tech or B.Tech (Honors). Some countries in fact carry forward the vocational stream to higher levels of education relating to “Management” courses leading to BVoc or MVoc Degrees.
Arrangements for obtaining qualifications in the “vocational field” through Distance Education would enable “working students” to access higher education leading to a degree in the “occupation group” or “field” they are employed in. That way, the chances are that they would remain and advance in their present occupation and at the same time, be able to pursue lifelong learning in their chosen fields.
With Charity to all and Malice to none.

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