The Honourable Minister of Education (HME), Mallam Adamu Adamu has said that the 160-year experience and success story of the University of London’s (UoL) International Programme was robust enough for Nigerian universities operating the Open and Distance Learning mode of education to emulate, “if they must attain the global best practices in the delivery of degree programmes via the ODL mode.”
He said while declaring Open a One-Day Symposium on Policy and Practice in Open and Distance Learning organized by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and UoL, last Wednesday that Open and Distance Education operated on the philosophy of equity and inclusivity, adding that it was not limited by space and was also technology-driven.
Represented by the Director Tertiary Education (DTE) of the Ministry, Mr. Joel Obi, Mallam Adamu, said that, ODE had the potential to accommodate larger numbers of students and therefore globally perceived and embraced as the panacea to the problem of inadequate access to equitable quality education, and regarded as the vehicle for promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Realising this trend, the Federal Government, he said, like other progressive minded nations had consequently over the past few decades, put policies in place to promote the entrenchment of distance education in the Nigerian higher education sector.
Some of these policies included the establishment of the National Open University of Nigeria in 1983 which was a decisive step on the part of Government to facilitate the evolution of an ODE system that would facilitate the provision of education for all.
Government established University of Abuja in 1988 as a dual mode university with a Centre for Distance Learning and Continuing Education (CDLCE; as well as the facilitation of NUC approving the emergence of seven other dual mode universities from the ranks of conventional universities in the NUS, to deliver degree programmes via conventional face-to-face and open and distance learning modes of education, among others.
The Minister disclosed that the model of ODL adopted differs from country to country and predicated largely on each country’s level of technological advancement. As a way of streamlining the orderly emergence of more ODL institutions, he stated that Government had, through its regulatory agency, the NUC, developed and adopted the ICT-Enabled Supported Blended Learning IESBL model as the acceptable and practicable model of ODL in the NUS.
Mallam Adamu stressed that ODE had the potential to significantly address the challenge of inadequate access to university education as evidenced in the NOUN, the only uni-mode open university in Nigeria, which as far back as 2013, had student enrolment figures of over 308,000 with about 180,000 being active students. This, he said, exceeded the enrolment capacity of the five first generation universities in Nigeria considerably.
To allay the fears of some pessimist, the HME said that the necessary quality assurance framework for regulating the evolution of ODE in the NUS had been put in place by Government through the NUC, which is mandated to regulate and coordinate the qualitative development of the system.
Government, he added, is lending strong support to the ongoing efforts of the NUC to promote the widespread acceptability of the ODL mode of education within the country and douse any remaining embers of doubt in some quarters as to its quality and parity with degree obtained via the conventional face-to face mode.
On the expectations of Government from NOUN and other institutions offering degree programmes via the ODL mode, the Hon. Minister said these include the need to remove every practice that would make degree programmes obtained through this mode and those face-to-face mode not have parity of esteem. The scheme would improve all facilities that would enhance and support the flexible teaching mode as well as put in place adequate learner support and facilitate the realisation of inclusive and equitable education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all, by the year 2030. He charged the institutions concerned to comply with regulatory guidelines for the qualitative development of the NUS as laid down by Government through the NUC.
While commending the Executive Secretary, NUC, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, for the bold step to organize the symposium along with the University of London, he noted that it was expected to promote in-depth understanding of the rudiments, operational modalities and qualitative imperatives required for meeting global best practices.
He acknowledged that there was no better partner for Nigerian universities than the University of London, with its track record of excellence in Nigeria, as evidenced by its affinity with University of Ibadan, which was then a branch campus of the University of London in 1948, as a College.
In his welcome Address, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed noted that Government acknowledged its awareness of the relevance of mass education when in its 1977 National Policy on Education; it highlighted the role of ODE to increase access and promote lifelong education. Despite this, he said that statistical evidence showed that none of the Sub-Sahara African Countries had attained the goal of providing education for all through the traditional or conventional education system.
Global trends, he stressed, indicated that ODL leverages on ICT in achieving increased access, flexibility of learning and provision of opportunity for lifelong learning, hence the recent global gravitation towards Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL).
On the number of universities engaged in ODE, the Executive Secretary said that out of 154 universities, only the NOUN currently has the distinction of being the only uni-mode university in the system. Other eight approved dual mode universities exists which have established distance learning centres through which they offer degree programmes via the ODL mode.
He disclosed that the NUC had initiated a number of quality assurance policies and strategies, developed and recently reviewed guidelines and quality benchmarks for the implementation of ODL in the NUS. These include: Guidelines for ODL in Nigerian Universities; Procedure, Requirements, and Steps for the Establishment of a Distance Learning Centre (DLC); Guidelines for the Establishment of Private Open Universities and Distance Leaning Centre Monitoring Instrument, among others.
To ensure the maintenance of standards in ODL practice in the NUS, Professor Rasheed noted that the Commission conducts periodic monitoring and on-site assessment visits to ODL institutions. Such quality assurance visits include, Monitoring and Assessment visits, Pre-validation, Re-validation and Post- Revalidation visits. He said that the expectations of the NUC was that the collaboration with the University of London would strengthen the capacities and promote the inculcation of global best practice in the delivery of degree programmes via the ODL mode.
In his goodwill message, the Chairman, House Committee on Tertiary Education and Services, Hon. Aminu Suleiman lauded the NUC for its strides in ensuring effective policy framework for an all-inclusive university education in Nigeria. He noted that on its part, the National Assembly has continued in its resolve to provide every necessary legislative support for the development of Tertiary Education in Nigeria, through the Senate and House Committees on tertiary education.
According to him, as political leaders, they would work to remove every barrier militating against qualitative education, show strong commitment to open and distance education which had proven to bridge the gap between education and ignorance. He also commended the University of London a reputable institution with high pedigree, for collaborating with the NUC, expressing confidence that the partnership would yield a long term positive impact for ODL in Nigeria.
Goodwill messages were also delivered by representatives of the Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities and former Executive Secretary NUC, Professor Munzali Jibril and the President of Global University Network International (GUNI) Africa and also former Executve Secretary NUC, Professor Peter Okebukola, both harped on the need to ensure that quality was entrenched in the ODE mode as practiced in other climes.
Two Keynote Addresses were delivered at the opening session on the topic “Changing the Narrative of Mass Education in 21st Century Nigeria” by Emeritus Professor of Open and Distance Learning and former Vice-Chancellor, NOUN, Professor Olugbemiro Jegede; and “The Imperatives, Challenges and Opportunities of Online Learning in Meeting Global Demand for Quality Higher Education,” by the Director of Global Engagement, University of London, Mike Winter, OBE.
The symposium later broke into a panel and interactive sessions with the first dwelling on the Quality and standards in Open and Distance Learning; the second panel discussion was on Innovation and the Future of Open and Distance Learning in Nigeria. A communiqué is being expected from the Symposium.
At the event were the Vice-Chancellors and the Directors of Distance Learning Centres of universities with approved ODL mode of education, stakeholders, Directors and Deputy Directors as well as staff of NUC.