March 2020 issue of Connections now available
19 March 2020

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COL delivers through innovation

“Learning is our common wealth and the key to our common future.” 

Marked annually across the globe, Commonwealth Day is an occasion to celebrate our collective values and shared vision. This year’s theme, “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming,” is of great relevance.

There are three Commonwealth intergovernmental organisations and over 80 associations, each contributing to development in Member States in a special way. 

As one of the three intergovernmental organisations, COL was set up specifically to bring quality education and lifelong learning to those who need it the most. It empowers people in the Commonwealth and beyond to take greater responsibility for their own lives, their societies and their environment. 

COL connects: 32 of our 54 Commonwealth members are small states, including many island nations, which are very vulnerable to the risks associated with climate change. COL creates synergies throughout the Commonwealth to increase awareness of the climate crisis and the benefits of the blue economy and green technologies to help small states become climate-resilient nations. COL’s Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth fosters cooperation among the 32 members.

COL innovates: More than 60 per cent of the Commonwealth’s citizens are 29 or under. COL’s low-cost Aptus device helps create virtual classrooms, addressing the needs of out-of-school youths. COL helps build the capacity of teachers and institutions to improve learning outcomes for young people and equip them with the know-how that the 21st century really needs. 

COL transforms lives: Women’s equality and empowerment are central to COL’s vision of promoting learning for sustainable development. With support from the governments of Canada and Australia, COL has skilled over 80,000 women and girls for livelihoods, so that child, early and forced marriage can be prevented. 

Learning is our common wealth and the key to our common future. Let us connect, innovate, and transform together. Happy Commonwealth Day to all!



Caribbean focal points meet in Saint Lucia

With a two-day meeting in Saint Lucia, COL launched a series of consultations to identify key regional priorities and guide the development of its new strategic plan. The event brought together COL’s Focal Points from Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines along with COL staff and representatives from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The meeting boosted COL’s understanding of the needs and priorities in the region. It was an opportunity to review COL’s work in the Caribbean and identify new opportunities for collaboration among different stakeholders.

As part of the programme, the Honourable Dr Gale Tracy Christiane Rigobert, Minister of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, hosted a dinner for meeting participants. She expressed gratitude to COL for its contributions to ICT integration in Saint Lucia.

Supporting gender equality in Malawi

In partnership with the Concerned Youth Organisation, COL is training 2,250 women and girls in Mchinji District, Malawi to increase gender equality. Activities are implemented in rural settings with typical grassroots 

communities, some of whom have never worked with an NGO, to improve gender equality. In the first phase of the project, women and girls in the Traditional Authority Nyoka benefited from a session on human rights, gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights, under the theme “Health-seeking behaviour among women and girls.”

COL conducts trial audit at Unisa

An institutional trial audit of the University of South Africa (Unisa) conducted by COL marked a critical milestone in a year-long collaborative project between the two institutions. Initiated to prepare Unisa for its institutional review by South Africa’s Council of Higher Education in 2020, it supports South Africa's largest university in reviewing its policies and practices. Particular focus is on teaching and learning, and student success.

Livelihoods training for women and girls

The Centre for Mass Education in Science (CMES) in Bangladesh is partnering with COL’s GIRLS Inspire project to train vulnerable women and girls for sustainable livelihoods. Focusing on hard-to-reach districts, CMES works with adolescents and youths to empower them economically and socially through skills development. Vermicompost workshops are part of the livelihoods training the Centre offers to women and girls. Graduates from this successful programme produce quality compost, which they sell to farmers to generate income.

CEMCA Advisory Board meeting

The Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) held the 19th annual meeting of its Advisory Board in New Delhi, India. Representatives of the Ministries of Education in India and Sri Lanka joined the meeting, along with vice chancellors of national open universities in Bangladesh and India. COL’s President, Professor Asha Kanwar, chaired the meeting, with the Vice President, Dr Venkataraman Balaji, in attendance. Professor Madhu Parhar, Director, CEMCA, presented the annual report.



Meeting with Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister, Antigua & Barbuda

During a recent trip to the Caribbean, COL’s Education Specialist: Agriculture & Livelihoods, Dr Moses Tenywa, met with H.E. Gaston Browne, PM and Minister of Finance of Antigua and Barbuda, and the Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, the Honourable Samantha Marshall to explore means of increasing access to credit by L3F learners.

Consultations in Papua New Guinea and Kiribati

In partnership with SP’s Centre for Flexible Learning, PACFOLD and New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, COL organised in-country consultations in Papua New Guinea and Kiribati. The goal was to present proposed initiatives to key stakeholders and experts, validate focus areas, and ensure they will meet the needs of learners in the two countries.

Former COL Board Member receives top China award

Former COL Board member Professor Dr Atta-ur-Rahman (below, centre) received the prestigious China International Science and Technology Cooperation Award 2020.



AI in education 

Artificial intelligence (AI) is quickly moving into education, not just in terms of technology that can support teaching and learning but also in the way it is changing the nature of the world. Find out more from Artificial Intelligence in Education, an interview with Professor Rose Luckin, UCL Knowledge Lab, which COL conducted at PCF9 in Edinburgh.

Open Schooling Programme launched in Nigeria

Six northern states in Nigeria will be pioneering an Open Schooling Programme with COL’s support in an effort to reduce the number of out-of-school children in the country. The initial workshop in Abuja brought together over 100 participants, including content developers, centre managers, as well as members of the task team from the Universal Basic Education Commission and its sister agencies to develop the programme content.

Quality learning for persons with disabilities

In response to concerns about the absence of an inclusive space for the community of persons with disabilities (PWD) to participate in national and economic upliftment, as well as political and public life, COL has launched a project in Mauritius in partnership with the Global Rainbow Foundation (GRF). The aim is to leverage the potential of technology-enabled learning to build capacity among practitioners and members of the PWD community, and raise awareness among companies, government organisations and the private sector about the inclusion of PWD in the workplace.

During a recent project workshop, UK-based Diversity and Ability (DnA), who were contracted by COL, conducted needs assessments and stakeholder consultations among members of the PWD community, practitioners who work with them, and other stakeholders. DnA trained GRF staff in needs assessment and assistive technologies.

Diplomats’ Induction Programme in London

COL partnered with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation for the 36th Diplomats Induction Programme (DIP) at Marlborough House in London, UK. Designed to introduce newly appointed envoys to a broad range of Commonwealth initiatives and collaborative opportunities, DIP brought together high commissioners and young diplomats from 16 countries. Professor Asha Kanwar described COL’s governance structure and spoke about the ways the organisation promotes inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all.

Supporting “Digital Bangladesh 2021 Vision”

COL is supporting Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology (AUST) in implementing the “Digital Bangladesh 2021 Vision” through the application of technology-enabled learning (TEL). With a view to helping AUST strengthen its capacity to leverage TEL effectively to improve student learning, COL co-organised a workshop on developing blended courses using the Moodle learning management system.


Recognising the need to improve numeracy skills among youths in the Pacific region, PACFOLD delivered a MOOC entitled Functional Numeracy. It ran for five weeks and included content for everyday functions, such as order of operations, percentages and interest, and data analysis.

Caribbean regional capacity building workshop on OER

More than 30 representatives of education ministries, universities and colleges, as well as education consortiums and councils from 14 countries in the Caribbean gathered in Saint Lucia for the regional Capacity-Building Workshop on Open Educational Resources (OER). The event was organised by COL in partnership with UNESCO and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The workshop raised awareness about OER among officials and policy makers in the Caribbean, prepared participants to advocate for OER and supported them in their efforts to develop and implement OER policies.

During the workshop, the Honourable Dr Gale Tracy Christiane Rigobert, Saint Lucia’s Minister of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, reiterated her ministry’s commitment to OER and to bridging the digital divide.

COL and OU-UK promote inclusive education in Kenya

COL, in collaboration with The Open University (OU), UK, supported the Ministry of Education and the Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE) in hosting a Learning Design Workshop. This activity is part of KISE’s implementation of COL’s Teacher Futures model, which aims to improve teacher quality and learning outcomes through innovative school-based teacher development. Staff from the OU’s Teacher Education in Sub-Saharan Africa (TESSA) programme facilitated the training, which focused on adaptation and integration of relevant open educational resources in the teacher development programme on inclusive education. Microlearning resources and a draft training handbook were developed, along with an outline of a future MOOC on inclusive pedagogies.

Capacity building for Federal University Oye-Ekiti

RETRIDOL supported a capacity-building workshop for the Federal University Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), which is in the process of acquiring accreditation from Nigeria’s National Universities Commission to operate as a dual-mode university. During the workshop, staff from FUOYE’s Distance Learning Institute were trained in the use of Moodle, materials development, online pedagogy and OER. FUOYE is the 17th university in Nigeria to participate in RETRIDOL’s dual-mode project.

Market-driven skills training for youth

COL’s Gender Initiative has launched a project with Youth Challenge Guyana to provide market-driven technical skills training to 280 men between the ages of 16 and 30. These young men will be trained in electrical installation, solar power maintenance, and refrigeration and air conditioning. In the framework of the project, local businesses will offer internships for participants to reinforce their newly acquired skills, and ensure that they acquire on-the-job experience and learn how to be effective at work. The youths will have male mentors, who will focus on various areas of personal and career development.

New pathways to employment

COL’s Skills in Demand model seeks to improve livelihoods for individuals in developing Commonwealth countries by matching skills development to industry and community needs, and in this way creating a pathway to employment and entrepreneurship. A series of workshops recently organised by COL in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia aimed to tap into informal apprenticeships — a well-established training system in Africa — with the goal of increasing access for marginalised people to technical and soft skill development opportunities.

Meeting at National Accreditation Council of Guyana

During a visit to Georgetown, Guyana, COL’s Education Specialist: VUSSC, Dr Mairette Newman, met with representatives of the country’s National Accreditation Council to identify a series of activities for strengthening their technical capacity to quality assure tertiary educational institutions offering online and blended programmes of study.

Strengthening climate resilience in Dominica

Update, Upgrade for a More Resilient Dominica – this is the theme of the five locally produced public education messages that were recently broadcast on radio stations in Dominica with COL support. Following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, COL has partnered with Dominica’s Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development to educate citizens about mitigating climate change risks and becoming better prepared for future disasters.

BA in Youth Work

The Commonwealth Higher Education Consortium for Youth Work organised a technical workshop at the Bangladesh Open University as part of a series designed to prepare partner institutions to develop and deliver the Bachelor’s Degree in Youth Work in blended and online environments. 

By making the degree available to partner institutions as OER and building their capacity to offer it in online and blended delivery modalities, the Consortium is increasing access to education and training for aspiring and practising youth workers. 

The Consortium is led by COL, the Commonwealth Secretariat and The University of the West Indies, with 17 universities from 15 Commonwealth countries as implementing partners.

COL enhances website accessibility

With a view to empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality, the Commonwealth of Learning has made its website more accessible to the visually impaired. The site is now equipped with assistive technology for a customised experience. A ReadSpeaker has been installed, allowing visitors to listen to content, as well as change speed, colour, language and other settings. COL will be adding more functionalities to the website to better serve the needs of persons with disabilities and create more effective learning environments for all. 

For more information, visit

Workshop on quality assurance in East Africa

A workshop hosted by Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya under the aegis of the Partnership for Enhanced and Blended Learning (PEBL) project brought together 22 senior administrators and faculty from 21 universities in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Attendees reviewed their progress in quality assurance interventions and identified institutional gaps in quality assurance processes for blended learning. They will now focus on developing and implementing improvement plans for each university. 

PEBL, a joint project with ACU, funded by UK's DFID under the SPHEIR initiative, is centred on course development and creating a network among universities in East Africa. The goal is to strengthen higher education institutions in the region. 

Employability meeting in Johannesburg

National quality assurance (QA) agencies that form part of a regional QA Community of Practice, supported by COL, got together to develop Key Employability Indicators (KEI) to monitor and evaluate the concept of employability through tangible outputs and outcomes, in alignment with COL’s employability readiness model. At a meeting in Johannesburg, members of the Community of Practice from Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia and Zambia validated the KEI and discussed ways in which they can be integrated in quality assessments at the national level.





Open, distance and eLearning (ODeL) approaches have been mainstreamed in recent years, with growing demand from nontraditional students who are seeking access to more flexible learning opportunities. However, to move from access to success, many students require support before, during and after their learning journey.

  1. Flexible learning resources shared as OER - With growing digitisation and the ability to embed interactive feedback into activity-based resources, many learning challenges can be anticipated and pre-empted. Sharing resources as OER makes it possible to tailor content to learners’ personal needs or to follow alternative learning pathways.
  2. Authentic assessment and feedback​ - A clear link between the learning purpose, the intended learning outcomes and authentic assessment activities, as well as timely, clear and constructive feedback are critical for success.
  3. Social support - It is important that learners have a social support network to engage with as needed. Creating tools for engagement with family and friends, other students, potential employers and faculty is critical to overcoming the sense of isolation that students may otherwise feel.
  4. Institutional and academic support - It is important to provide on-demand access to guidelines and feedback. Since academic study may be an unfamiliar activity for many students, it is advisable to pre-emptively provide readily accessible guidelines about relevant academic tasks and skills.
  5. Targeted support - As the student population becomes more diverse, so do learning support needs. For working students, institutions may need to explore ways to increase flexibility around when key tasks must be submitted. Thought must also be given to integrating appropriate assistive technologies to enable students with various learning challenges to engage with the content and learning processes.

To access the full version of the Top 5, visit




Innovate, Connect and Transform

Inspiring examples of how COL changes lives across the Commonwealth

Addressing skills development challenges in PNG

Ancilla Yendi is Executive Manager, Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), at the Department of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (DHERST) in Papua New Guinea (PNG). She works for a new project management unit that has been tasked with monitoring large infrastructure projects at universities as well as teacher, nursing, technical and business colleges. As one of DHERST‘s staff who has assumed a new role, Ancilla managed to grow her capacity to perform M&E through COL’s support. “Many of the project-management instruments are new to us, and COL’s online training helped me understand the key elements in the project-management cycle,” she says. 

Ancilla welcomed the course’s convenient format, which broke down key information into manageable sections. She completed it in six weeks and has already started putting the new knowledge into practice. “I can now be more effective in the new big project that I have just been assigned to build infrastructure for a new institute,

 and it will also help me develop M&E frameworks for other projects in the higher education sector,” she notes. COL is supporting DHERST to combine online and workplace learning. Staff will have an opportunity to work towards a formal project management qualification through blended learning. Future plans include extension of the model to solve other skills development challenges facing PNG.

Building capacity in Belize


"Having COL is like having a big brother or sister that you can lean on."


Jacklyn Burns is an educator with a professional track record of over 20 years as well as being a two-term member of the Belmopan City Council in Belize. This single mother of two with an insatiable passion for learning has always wanted to achieve a master’s degree. Now she has a chance to pursue her dream through the Master in Education Leadership Programme offered at the University of Belize with support from COL’s Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC).

With its combination of online learning and face-to-face sessions, which are scheduled on Saturdays or after working hours, the programme is a perfect fit. “Education is what is going to improve our lives,” says Jacklyn.

“Belize is one of the countries that needs a lot of development, and we need more people who are passionate and caring enough to impart knowledge to young people.” Jacklyn, who was raised with five siblings by a single mom and is an accomplished career woman, feels she is now better equipped to make a difference for those who are less fortunate, and help build their success. She plans to complete graduate studies early next year and is very appreciative of COL’s ongoing support. “Having COL is like having a big brother or sister that you can lean
on,” Jacklyn says.

Improving livelihoods for Kenyan youths

The eldest of five siblings, Bravin Mugangasia had to leave rural Kenya for Nairobi in search of a better life. His big break came when he was introduced to COL’s Skills Online programme – a collaboration between COL, its partners in four countries, including Kenya, and Udemy Inc., an online learning and teaching marketplace. This pilot initiative, which was launched in November 2019, strives to turn unemployed youths into skilled employees and entrepreneurs for gainful employment by combining the power of online learning with offline mentorship. Through Skills Online, participants can access over 4,000 curated, high-quality online courses at no cost.

“I successfully finished [the course] on Advanced Excel that enabled me to become more effective when understanding data. This caught the eye of my boss, who gave me more responsibilities,” says Bravin. “The promotion came with a fair salary package, and this also impacted my family, as my brother was able to join his dream secondary school and I was able to pay part of the school fees.” Bravin is one of 1,000 Kenyan participants in Skills Online who have been assisted by COL’s local partner, the Capacity for Programme Development in Africa, a non-governmental organisation working to improve the livelihood conditions of Kenyan youths and their counterparts in the rest of Africa. Along with Kenya, the pilot has been launched in Bangladesh, Ghana and Rwanda.

Lifelong Learning for Farmers in India

Ms Kalarani, a farmer from Dindigul district in Tamil Nadu, India, and mother of two, juggles multiple responsibilities. She credits COL’s L3F programme with helping her significantly improve her livelihood. A shareholder in a farmers producer company that provides for profit sharing among its members, Ms Kalarani has benefited from the programme’s “blended learning approach,” aimed at promoting good agricultural practices. In-person training and regular mobile voice messages helped her acquire relevant and timely knowledge of sustainable farming practices.

As a result, Ms Kalarani managed to increase the yield of okra, one of her key crops, reduce the use of inorganic chemicals and improve soil status. Premised on the belief that an effective linkage of human, social and financial capital leads to spiraling in a self-sustaining process, L3F has reached over 300,000 men and women in marginalised communities, empowering them to achieve more productive and sustainable livelihoods. Ms Kalarani is a great example of L3F at work. This triple-win framework contributes to greater food security, increased income and a conserved environment – all through blended learning in local languages.



COL partners with the Open University of Mauritius

Contributed by Dr Kaviraj Sharma Sukon, Director-General, Open University of Mauritius

“We are looking forward to continuing our cooperation with COL to provide new opportunities and new horizons for our learners"

Established less than eight years ago, the Open University of Mauritius (OU) now attracts more than 5,000 students to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies via open and distance learning. It is the fastest growing public university in the country, as evidenced by a report from the Tertiary Education Commission, Mauritius, while also being the first local public university to be re-certified from ISO 9001:2008 to ISO 9001:2015. OU provides its learners, 85 per cent of whom are employed, with an opportunity to pursue education on their own terms. 

Having played a pivotal role in establishing OU, COL has helped build its capacity to offer affordable, accessible, flexible, high-quality programmes. It is significant that on 12 July 2012, the first day in its existence, OU started negotiations with COL to become a partner in the Commonwealth Executive Master of Business Administration (CEMBA) and the Commonwealth Executive Master of Public Administration (CEMPA) programmes. These were among the first courses offered at OU, empowering hundreds of learners to become agents of economic and social development.

“It is flexible, accessible, blended, and it is internationally recognised,” noted one of our graduates, who credits CEMBA/CEMPA with charting the course of her career. Collaboration between the two organisations has always aimed at meeting the strategic priorities in Mauritius’ education sector and responding to global challenges. Most recently, OU and COL partnered to develop a massive open online course (MOOC) entitled “Business for Sustainable Development.” This first “home-grown MOOC,” which was offered in June and November 2019, explored the challenges and complexities of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, introduced sustainable corporate strategy and the sustainable business scorecard, and provided insight into the opportunities for sustainable trade and the fundamentals of sustainable consumption and production.

It was made available as an open educational resource and attracted over 5,000 participants from more than 100 countries in its two offerings. As an example of true pan-Commonwealth cooperation, the learning content was delivered through the LMS mooKIT platform, which had been developed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur with COL’s support. One of the key features of this MOOC was the collaborative work carried out by learners located in different parts of the world. As the course unfolded, forum posts provided ample examples of peer learning, with students owning the platform and initiating posts, as well as supporting and guiding others. Learners also engaged in post-MOOC discussions on social media platforms. 

The MOOC has helped to unite citizens from various parts of the world on the theme of sustainable development, which is extremely important to ensure everyone’s well-being. It has also provided an opportunity for OU’s team to interact with students from different contexts and realities. “The course on Sustainable Development in Business was my first MOOC experience, and it has served as a springboard for my future endeavours,” said a participant from Nigeria. This also holds true for OU, where ideas of offering more MOOCs are in the pipeline. We are looking forward to continuing our cooperation with COL to provide new opportunities and new horizons for our learners.

Our Changing Climate: the Zena Daysh lecture

How does climate change affect the way we learn? Professor Asha Kanwar was invited to address this topic at the second Zena Daysh lecture, organised by the Commonwealth Human Ecology Council in London, UK. Speaking to the audience of Commonwealth experts, academics, enthusiasts, and students from the University of London, she analysed the impact of climate change on education in the Commonwealth and the impact of education on climate change. She shared examples of successful “green” models. According to Professor Kanwar, three shifts can promote the interconnectedness of people and the planet: (1) the adoption of a transformative approach to learning; (2) tapping into the vast potential of tacit and indigenous knowledge; and (3) situating learning closer to our communities. The full text of the lecture is available on OAsis at:

COL supports Zambia to develop OER strategy

COL supported the Republic of Zambia to draft an OER strategy, which aims to help the country mainstream OER and realise their benefits in educational institutions of all levels. The strategy review was finalised at a stakeholder consultation in Lusaka, with the participation of representatives from various Zambian organisations and ministries. Prior to the consultation, COL developed a report on OER in Zambia, including a draft strategy, in discussion with the Ministry of General Education. 

The report is available on OAsis at:

Teacher Futures launched in Ghana

A school-based teacher development workshop at Tamale College of Education (TACE) marked the inception of Teacher Futures – Ghana. Organised with support from COL, the workshop brought together 20 participants, who were introduced to COL’s Teacher Futures model for continuous school-based teacher development. TACE has designed a programme aimed at improving quality and learning outcomes through teacher professional learning communities and coaching in partner schools. This platform for knowledge exchange and resource sharing aims to help them reform
their pedagogical practice.

Certificate for Distance Education Practitioners at BOU

he Southern African Development Community Centre for Distance Education sponsored 33 individuals to participate in the Certificate for Distance Education Practitioners programme (CDEP), offered by Botswana Open University. The CDEP covers a range of topics in open and distance learning (ODL). It is suitable for policy makers, university or college administrators, and practitioners in need of deepening their knowledge on aspects of ODL, including history, materials development, policy, financing and learner support. Learners from eSwatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Seychelles have enrolled in the course.

eLIO builds tutor capacity

COL’s service initiative, eLearning for International Organisations (eLIO), recently conducted web-based and face-to-face training for tutors to deliver new courses in its suite “Essential Skills for International Organisations.” Courses within the programme are aimed at a wide range of stakeholders in and beyond the Commonwealth. They enhance the capacities of staff and, in turn, their institutions. eLIO’s courses can be replicated or customised and are supported by personal tutors, while web-based training and the use of an open-source learning management system ensure the scalability of the model.

To learn more about eLIO offerings, please visit:

Expanding access to quality learning in the Bahamas

COL is partnering with the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) to expand its access to quality online and blended learning. To this end, COL Education Specialist: VUSSC, Dr Mairette Newman, held a series of planning meetings with the BTVI leadership team and facilitated a monitoring and evaluation workshop with faculty members, including department heads, lead administrators and instructors. The next phase of COL–BTVI collaboration will see 25 instructors benefiting from face-to-face and online training in the design, development and delivery of online courses in Maths, Literacy, Information Technology and Entrepreneurship.

Workshop on eModeration at Fiji National University

As part of the efforts by Fiji National University to mainstream technology-enabled learning, COL supported a two-day workshop on eModeration. With the goal of building teacher capacity in facilitating blended and online courses, it covered models of eModeration, building online communities, communication channels, and skills and competencies of online moderators.

Distance learning for Nigeria’s teachers

One of the challenges faced by institutions such as the National Teachers Institute (NTI) in Kaduna, Nigeria is the need to support the expanding number of distance learners, many of whom are practising teachers in primary and secondary schools across the country. COL has been working with NTI to build the capacity of its academic and administrative staff to provide effective support to learners enrolled in the institution’s ODL programmes. A recent workshop brought together 63 participants, including zonal and state coordinators and education officers responsible for various study centres, to explore the use of technology in creating efficient learner support systems and address barriers to learning and teaching in the curriculum.

C-DELTA training in Bangladesh

COL is supporting the Centre for International Education and Development of Dhaka Ahsania Mission, Bangladesh to implement the Commonwealth Digital Education Leadership Training in Action (C-DELTA programme) in 30 schools/colleges of Bangladesh. With the country’s progress in the information technology sector, C-DELTA is expected to create digital education leaders in Bangladesh. A recent training of trainers workshop built the digital education skills of teachers from both government and non-government colleges and teacher training centres. This is the second cohort of trainers, and the projections are for them to train an additional 150 teachers and 1,800 students. C-DELTA is currently implemented in nine Commonwealth countries, with over 5,800 learners using the platform.


Through its L3F programme, COL is supporting the development of innovative credit-guarantee models as a means to achieve enhanced social and economic outcomes and promote the transition from meso- to macro-scale sustainable development.

Training for bank managers in India

The National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) is partnering with COL in the L3F programme to promote farmer-producer organisations that will enable a greater reach of learning for social and economic impact. A capacity-building workshop for NABARD managers in Chennai, India, organised with COL’s support, focused on logical framework analysis as a means of strengthening the bank’s capacity to use results-based management for innovative credit guarantee schemes.

Linking learning to finance in Tanzania

A workshop organised jointly with the NGO Matumaini Mapya for staff from the Bank of Tanzania, Mkombozi Commercial Bank and the Ministry of Agriculture in Dar es Salaam increased understanding of the opportunities for using cognitive social capital as collateral, along with the strategies and policies necessary to promote producer finance companies.




Is greater inequality inevitable?

Book review of Capital and Ideology by Thomas Piketty, Harvard University Press, published March 2020

Contributed by Sir John Daniel, former President and CEO of COL (2004 to 2012)

"Good education for all is the key to enabling people to chart their own futures.”

Reducing inequality of income around the world is the perennial aim of international development. But today, growing inequalities within national populations have become pressing social issues. The French economist Thomas Piketty, whose 2013 book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, sold 2.5 million copies in 40 languages, can take the credit for putting inequality at the centre of contemporary political and intellectual discourse. Manifesting itself in dimensions such as income, wealth, education and employment, inequality has attracted a spate of books, including Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else (Doubleday Canada, 2012) by Chrystia Freeland, who is now deputy prime minister of Canada. 

Piketty’s new book, Capital and Ideology, expands our understanding of inequalities by setting their evolution in a global historical context. Through a thousand pages of analysis, he corrects three common weaknesses in other studies. First, much contemporary commentary on inequality focuses only on recent decades, whereas Piketty delves back into its manifestations in previous centuries. Second, most other writing focuses almost exclusively on Europe and the United States. Piketty casts his net wider, examining in detail, for example, the historical record of inequalities in India before, during and after British rule. Third, he debunks the fatalistic view that increasing inequality is a built-in feature of modern societies and an unavoidable trend. 

The central feature of his new book is its focus on the ideologies underpinning inequality. He argues: Each human society must justify its inequalities: it must find reasons for them, otherwise its whole political and social structure will face the threat of collapse… Our historical analysis yields an important conclusion: human development and social progress depend on the fight for equality and education; not by treating property rights, stability and inequality as sacred. His review of the systems underpinning inequality starts with the ancient and widespread regime of the “ternary society,” with its three classes of priests, nobles and ordinary people: workers and peasants. He then examines the extreme inequality in countries that had slavery and in the overseas colonies of Western powers. Particular attention is given to India’s caste systems, which British rule ossified, making subsequent change more difficult.

The French Revolution was a turning point in the evolution of ideologies supporting inequality. Although traces of the ternary society persisted for over a century, centralised government gradually took over the status of the clergy and nobility. The 19th century saw the emergence of “societies of owners,” leading once again, by the beginning of the 20th century, to extreme inequalities of income and wealth in Europe and the United States. Political pushback against such inequity was already under way when the First World War and the Russian Revolution changed these societies permanently, leading in the West to the development of social democracy.

In The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century (Princeton University Press, 2017), Walter Scheidel argued that while mass mobilisation warfare, revolutions, state collapse and epidemics may have reduced inequalities in the past, we should not wait for such catastrophes to create a fairer balance of incomes and wealth today. 

Agreeing with Scheidel, Piketty concludes his book by building the case for government action to redistribute wealth and income more fairly, and proposing mechanisms for that. He stresses that from 1950 to 1980, when Europe and the United States had high taxes on the rich, economic growth was stronger than it has ever been since then. But after the collapse of what he calls “the disaster of communism,” the notion of redistributing income and wealth fell out of fashion. Other countries followed the lead of Reagan and Thatcher, who argued — wrongly, as it turned out — that high taxes on the rich hindered entrepreneurship and economic growth. 

Today, the tide seems to be turning. This year’s U.S. election campaign features robust discussions of income redistribution. Elsewhere, movements like France’s “gilets jaunes” express ordinary people’s feelings that they are being left behind while an elite accumulates obscene wealth. Piketty insists that a trend towards greater inequality is not inevitable. His sweeping historical analysis shows that societies can make choices among their possible avenues for development. Good education for all is the key to enabling people to chart their own futures. Ensuring equal access to education is the principal means for reducing inequality generally.



COL welcomes new board members: 

Representing Africa: MR ARMOOGUM PARSURAMEN, GOSK, President, Global Rainbow Foundation, Mauritius




Representing Asia: PROFESSOR DATUK DR ASMA ISMAIL, President, Academy of Sciences Malaysia
Chairperson, Malaysian Qualifications Agency



Representing Pacific: THE HONOURABLE SIAOSI ‘OFAKIVAHAFOLAU SOVALENI, Minister of Education and Training, Kingdom of Tonga


Staff Announcements


Dr Ogange has been appointed as Education Specialist: Teacher Education. She has served COL since 2017 as Adviser: Teacher Education. Prior to joining COL, she had been working in the area of teacher education and ICT for over ten years. Dr Ogange holds a PhD from The Open University (UK), a MA from Lancaster University and a MSc from Sunderland University.



Ms Carr has been appointed as the M&E Manager. She has been serving COL in the capacity of Research Coordinator since 2016. Ms Carr holds a Master of Arts in International Studies (International Development) and a BA from Simon Fraser University.




Learners’ Access to Educational Materials in Select Institutions within the Commonwealth

This report assesses students’ access to educational materials. The findings indicate that learners are now engaging with a complex ecosystem of learning materials in a multitude of differing forms and formats, yet they are not acutely aware of open educational resources. More work needs to be done to educate learners about OER.


Guide to Gender-Responsive Learning Materials Development

Developed as a tool to enhance gender-equality considerations in learning materials, this publication provides up-to-date information and tips on how to develop gender-responsive learning materials. It will help users incorporate gender responsiveness into various components of course development, delivery, assessment and revision.


Learning Resources Gender Evaluation Rubric

This rubric is designed for course writers, editors, revisers, content developers, illustrators and educators responsible for course assessment and evaluation. It can be used at any stage of course development to strengthen its gender responsiveness.


Commonwealth Digital Education Leadership Training in
Action: An Evaluation

This report presents an evaluation of C-DELTA conducted in 2019. Among its key recommendations are suggestions to establish a C-DELTA community of practice, offer the course as a MOOC, simplify and translate assessment items, and expand interactive elements through the adaptation of OER.


The Impact of Technology-Enabled Learning at Universiti Malaysia Sabah

This study assessed the effectiveness of blended learning (BL) for students’ learning performance, and their perceptions about BL. It also examined the relationship between online activities and final scores. Results showed more positive outcomes for students in the blended mode of learning.




Technology holds promise to overcome education barriers

"The potent combination of smartphones, OER and AI could easily become the magic formula for tackling the problem of access to education."

People around the globe experience many barriers to accessing education. At the primary and secondary levels, common factors include shortages of trained teachers, schools and learning materials, exclusion of children with disabilities, being the wrong gender, or even living too far from school. At the tertiary level, lack of capacity — in terms of too few brick-and-mortar facilities and, more importantly, acute shortages of properly qualified faculty — lead to problems of access. While issues with physical infrastructure and materials may be addressed by throwing money at the picture, the shortage of properly trained individuals cannot be solved overnight. It takes huge investment, meticulous planning and immense foresight to draw up a plan to overcome this barrier. Then, the plan must be pursued for the proper duration to ensure that the desired results are obtained. While China, according to the BBC, was setting up the equivalent of one university per week in 2016, most other countries are not even close to addressing the capacity issue, especially in the face of burgeoning populations.

Technology-mediated education holds the promise of overcoming this particularly insidious hurdle. eLearning has become commonplace, and conventional face-to-face universities are introducing more and more offerings in this format. Top-tier institutions have even shared their content freely in the form of massive open online courses, or MOOCs. In developed countries, the Internet is now ubiquitous, and learners can easily access the collective knowledge of all humankind that resides in the cloud. In the case of developing countries, however, widespread Internet access and reasonable broadband speeds are still something for the future. Optical fibre networks, public wifi and easy access to computers are still uncommon. 

One particular tool making tremendous inroads even in the remotest corners of the globe is cellular technology. Smartphones offer full computer functionality, which can easily be harnessed for the delivery of education. Almost all online content is accessible through these amazing devices. This technology presents an invaluable opportunity for the developing world to leapfrog and catch up with the developed world.

The missing ingredients that could leverage this technology and help overcome many of the barriers to access listed earlier are quality content and learner support. Content could be culled from open and freely available university courses or assembled using open educational resources (OER). However, the real game changer would be robotic tutors based on artificial intelligence (AI) that could provide learner support as well as perform assessments. These robotic tutors could easily be scaled up and provide automated services to thousands of learners. The potent combination of smartphones, OER and AI could easily prove to be the magic formula for tackling the problem of access to education, especially in the developing world. The same combination also holds the promise of providing a solution to the requirements of lifelong learning, which is rapidly becoming the next access problem!