Opening up education through open learning

PENANG: The country needs to promote open and distance learning so that tertiary education becomes less elitist and is accessible to more people. 

In making this point, state executive councillor Datuk Dr Toh Kin Woon said that while tertiary education in Malaysia had experienced rapid growth since the 1980s, it was still accessible to just 15% of the tar- get group. 

The Government’s target of seeing 1.4 million youths or 40% of the nation’s population in the 19 to 24 age group in tertiary education by 2010 could only be realised if the open and distance learning concept was adopted to complement conventional learning, he said. 

“Conventional face-to-face learning, space constraints, lack of staff and the high costs involved are obstacles that make education less accessible, especially to poorer people. Open and distance learning also allows working adults to engage in life-long learning,” he said yesterday when opening the Wawasan Open University's special preview talk for the corporate community.  

Dr Toh said there were 18 public universities and some 600 private universities and colleges around the country. 

“We can continue building more universities but we could end up like Taiwan, where the supply is more than the demand.” 

He noted that conventional learning was not flexible enough for those who needed to work but still wanted to continue studying.  

He also said there was a misperception that open and distance learning was inferior to conventional way of learning. 

“The entry requirement may be less rigid but students still have to achieve certain standards before they are awarded the qualifications.”  

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