Open/Innovative Schooling

Access remains inequitable, especially in rural areas, with girls particularly disadvantaged. Despite the encouraging progress made to increase access to schooling, the latest edition of the Global Education Digest reveals that an alarmingly high number of children are repeating grades and leaving school before completing primary or lower-secondary education. “New data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) show that about 32.2 million primary pupils were held back a grade in 2010, and 31.2 million dropped out of school and may never return” (UNESCO, 2012). The dilemma, therefore, is not only to deal with out-of-school children, but also to address why children leave school. Those most at risk are girls, minors, and rural and poor children.

What is Open Schooling?

Open schooling has been introduced successfully in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific to complement, or as an alternative to, the conventional school system. COL defines it as “the physical separation of the school learner from the teacher, and the use of unconventional teaching methodologies and information and communications technologies.”

Open schooling can be provided by standalone, independent distance education institutions, or be managed as part of the education ministry within a specific directorate, or be part of a university. In the COL publication Perspectives on Distance Learning: Open Schooling in the 21st Century (2009), various case studies illustrate how open schooling has been implemented in different contexts.

What has changed in Open Schooling?

Perhaps the most significant shift in open schooling was inspired by the open educational resources (OER) movement, which promised to address some of the most difficult educational challenges. To tackle the issue of access to quality education, COL introduced OER to open schools in 2009 via the collaborative development of course materials in 20 subjects across six countries.Over the past 10 years, COL has worked, through various means, with ministries ofeducation, institutions and non-governmental organizations to facilitate and improve the delivery of open schooling by establishing new open schools and strengthening existing ones. While open schools have traditionally used print-based curriculum content, the use of modern technology and the sharing of resources have led to significant shifts in open schooling design.

Over the next six years COL will work with countries and institutions to:

Open Schooling: Broadening Access to Learning Opportunities from Commonwealth of Learning on Vimeo.
  • Develop quality curriculum content in TVE subjects (aligned to skills needed for the world of work) using OER and various educational technologies.
  • Enhance the quality of conventional schooling through the introduction of viable and cost effective models of schooling, including virtual schoolings and the integration of quality curriculum content developed by Open Schools.
  • Improve learner retention and success rates in open schools.
  • Develop policy briefs and evidence-based research that improves ODL policy and organisational capacity.


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