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Education is one of COL's two programme sectors. The four initiatives in this sector – Open Schooling, Teacher education, Higher education and the Virtual University for the Small States of the Commonwealth – continue to reflect the wide pan-Commonwealth consensus on priorities that are expressed during COL’s consultation process.

Open schooling


It is time for us to pursue open schooling in order to expand access to education and lifelong learning. This form of education delivery is very cost effective as well as helpful in increasing school completion and literacy rates.

H.E. Bapes Bapes, Minister of Secondary Education, Cameroon, 2010

Compared with the global average of 67% participation in secondary schools, the gross enrolment ratio in Sub-Saharan Africa is only 34%. Secondary school places are grossly insufficient to absorb the surge of pupils now completing primary schooling, thanks to progress made in achieving universal primary education. Open schooling is increasingly recognised as a viable solution to the growing demand for equitable

access to secondary education, especially for girls and marginalised groups, particularly in remote locations. Governments are seeking to redefine the way that secondary education addresses societal needs, by diversifying the curriculum. This means making available technical and vocational programmes alongside academic offerings — something that open schools are well placed to do.

In this Three-Year Plan, the main focus will be on girls’ education.

During this Three-Year Plan 2012–2015, COL will continue to work with ministries and institutions to:

  • introduce and expand open schooling to increase learning opportunities, particularly for girls, out-of-school youth, and people in remote regions;
  • increase enrolment and performance by adopting new policies and systems;
  • introduce technical and vocational subjects to promote skills development and attract learners who would otherwise have stayed away; and
  • support policies that promote the development, adoption and use of OER.

Teacher education

COL’s support to the National Teachers’ Institute (NTI) Kaduna, has … energised programme development capability of professional staff … and deepened many teacher educators’ knowledge of ODL across the country.

Prince Ademola Olude, Deputy Director, NTI, Kaduna, Nigeria

Achieving Universal Primary Education by 2015 requires well-trained teachers of good quality. Globally about 10 million teachers will be required; Sub-Saharan Africa alone will need over three million teachers. All governments of Commonwealth developing countries want to increase teacher supply and improve teacher quality. COL has a good record of helping them do this.

COL’s Teacher Education Initiative will focus on school-based, in-service training models and during this Three-Year Plan 2012–2015 will continue to:

  • advocate the use of ODL in teacher education and develop the capacity of teachers and teacher educators in different aspects of ODL;
  • support ministries and institutions to harness the potential of ODL and ICT and thereby strengthen and expand teacher education institutions;
  • support institutions to design and implement quality programmes;
  • work with institutions and quality assurance agencies to develop and implement quality assurance frameworks; and
  • collaborate with international partners and training institutions to promote the development, adoption and use of OER.


Higher education

COL RIM is much more useful than the regular Quality Assurance process because it probes a lot more and is a better way of teaching what quality means.

Uma Coomaraswamy, former Vice Chancellor, Open University of Sri Lanka

Many developing countries consider that increasing age participation rates in higher education to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 40–50% is vital to sustainable economic development. Many countries in South Asia have age participation rates of less than 15%, while the average rates in Sub- Saharan Africa are less than 10%. COL has worked with governments and institutions to promote greater access to higher education and improve the quality of the delivery and management of their programmes through the use of ODL. It will continue to support policy makers, institutions and leaders in higher education to harness the potential of ODL and so enable them to cope with the combination of increasing demand for higher education, rising costs, diminishing public funding and the need to maintain high quality levels. Where appropriate, COL will link to major initiatives in technology-mediated learning at both graduate and undergraduate levels in Member States.

COL will develop action plans aligned to the priorities of specific countries to increase access to quality higher education and forge partnerships with international and regional organisations to leverage its impact. During this Three-Year Plan 2012–2015, COL will:

  • support the development and implementation of ODL policy, both at the national and the institutional levels;
  • provide technical assistance to new open universities and support the transition of conventional institutions to dual mode;
  • strengthen leadership and entrepreneurial skills development for both women and men in higher education;
  • ensure the development of robust systems in higher education institutions through the implementation of low-cost quality assurance models; and
  • support the adoption and use of OER.


Virtual University for the Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC)

Now I see that I can move from providing training for a few persons in my country to becoming a teacher of many, across nations. I have gained new skills, a new perspective, a vision of what is possible and how limitations of size, money and distance can be overcome if people are willing to work together and share resources.

Singapore workshop participant, 2007

Many small states do not have adequate provision for tertiary level education. As a result, the average migration rate from small states is 44% compared with the Commonwealth average of 18%. Strengthening and improving the quality and scope of existing tertiary institutions is therefore a key priority. The VUSSC partnership represents 32 small states of the Commonwealth dedicated to expanding access to tertiary education. In the past few years, VUSSC has connected institutions through online technologies to promote eLearning and the sharing of educational resources using collaborative and multi-institutional frameworks.

COL’s emphasis will now be on the adoption and delivery of VUSSC programmes. During this Three-Year Plan 2012–2015, COL will continue to:

  • provide support to strengthen the capacity of faculty members to facilitate the delivery of VUSSC courses through their institutions;
  • promote the use of quality skills development courses;
  • develop cost-effective models for the creation of content through collaboration and the use of technology;
  • support the development of systems to provide support to learners for ensuring successful implementation of ODL in small states;
  • work with international partners and stakeholders to promote and institutionalise OER; and
  • collaborate with qualifications authorities and quality assurance bodies to ensure successful implementation of the Transnational Qualifications Framework (TQF) and encourage the recognition of courses and learner credentials.