December 13, 2017

Is for-profit online learning the answer for developing countries?

Computer lab, Tshwane University of Technology, South Africa

Daniel. J. (2011) The Role of For-Profit Higher Education Commonwealth of Learning, April 7

Sir John Daniel, the President of the Commonwealth of Learning, reports on a meeting on Exploring the Future of International For-Profit Higher Education and Quality Assurance organized by UNESCO and the US Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

John Daniel comments:

Many developing countries will not be able to respond to the burgeoning demand for higher education without recourse to the private sector, so the question is not whether to recognise private institutions but how to position them in higher education systems in ways that optimise their contribution to the public good…..

The discussion showed that the for-profit sector can deliver education in the public interest. Accreditation and quality assurance are important services to the public and are helping to make governments more comfortable with a variety of business models in higher education. It is important to pursue the dialogue about for-profit education within the academy as well as with governments. This will help to build bridges and increase trust.

I agree that for developing countries, both private and public systems have important roles to play in enabling the development of learning and education. Nevertheless I would add two important caveats.

First, the primary goal should be to develop a high quality public education system that is open to all, irrespective of income, race or caste. Private education may be a useful intermediary step for those able to afford it until the state can provide universal good quality education, but by definition private education cannot provide for all potential learners, and if it becomes too strong it can undermine a state system.

Second, US-based for-profit organizations continue to struggle exporting their model to other countries. This is not because they are for-profit (or US-based), but because education has strong cultural and local roots and hence is difficult (but not impossible) to transfer successfully between countries.

Education needs to be adapted to the local needs of developing countries if it is to succeed. This usually means locally produced content, and the development of a professionally strong local teaching force. International collaboration and partnership may provide valuable assistance to this process, but the development of a strong, autonomous indigenous educational system should be the ultimate goal, not the marketing of Western-based teaching content (whether open source or commercial).

Lastly, the advertisement below from the HSBC Bank serves a welcome reminder that the internationalization of education is not just one way. Indian instructors are playing an important role in educating US students:

Comments

  1. A solid post on education to (and from) other countries. I think one of the primary questions here is that of trust: even with a well-developed for-profit organization in the US, what reasoning do citizens of other countries have to know that education they find online is of high quality? That it is current and relevant to what they need? And that it’s worth whatever costs may be involved?

    I may be off here, but I would expect that at least a few individuals searching for a resource online to get education of any kind would ask these kinds of questions.

  2. Tony Searl says:

    That lack of competing heritage systems, infrastructure standards and “western” values may be reasons developing countries will close any online education gap relatively quickly.

    If disaggregation, learning design, quality control and accreditation can be “acceptably” globalised, learning will be country agnostic. That’s challenging but achievable, especially for cultures motivated to value the offer.

    Benefits of having less entrenched sytems to unschool, less contention with status quo attitudes and less dilution of resources as local learning emerges will outweigh digital establishment costs. “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so” will allow emerging learning nations to utilise, on their terms, a mature digital culture rather than a competing one.

    The successful for profit mobile tipping points will be rapid, inexpensive compared to today’s pilot technology and able to be culturally shaped for quality and global accreditation. Being first has benefits but being next has more.

  3. “the primary goal should be to develop a high quality public education system that is open to all, irrespective of income, race or caste.”

    I totally agree with this. Educational institutions should be fair to everybody and should not make any exceptions or tolerate discriminations. It should be open for all because everybody deserves to have a good education and nothing should hinder them from doing so.

    Katie Smith
    My last blog post: Alfani Shoes

Trackbacks

  1. […] View article: Is for-profit online learning the answer for developing countries? […]

  2. […] Die Frage ist eine bildungspolitische, die Antwort bezieht sich zudem auf einen Kommentar von Sir John Daniel, den Präsidenten des Commonwealth of Learning. Aber man sollte sie lesen, allein schon, um den letzten Absatz würdigen zu können: “Lastly, the advertisement below from the HSBC Bank serves a welcome reminder that the internationalization of education is not just one way. Indian instructors are playing an important role in educating US students: …” Tony Bates, e-learning and distant education RESOURCES, 10. April 2011 […]

  3. […] is an excerpt from the article by Tony Bates:Is for-profit online learning the answer for developing countries? I agree that for developing countries, both private and public systems have important roles to play […]

Speak Your Mind

*