COL’s Strategic Plan 2015–2021 comes at a very important juncture in history: 2015 is the target date when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draw to a close. A new set of post-2015 development goals has been identified by the international community. This plan takes into account the unfinished agenda of the MDGs, the priorities of Member States of the Commonwealth and the new concerns identified in the successor framework.
The Strategic Plan 2015–2021 has been developed after wide consultations and two external evaluations. From those reviews, one clear message emerged: COL must build on past strengths and continue with current initiatives in education and skills development to achieve longer-term impact.
While the new plan provides continuity, a subtle but significant change is evident.
- COL has made a transition from “Learning for Development” to “Learning for Sustainable Development” to align itself to the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. Goal 4 aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” COL will use its expertise in distance education and technology-based approaches to promote lifelong learning that leads to sustainable development. COL will refocus its interventions in education and learning to integrate the concerns relating to economic growth, social development and environmental conservation.
- Education and skills development will be the two priority sectors for COL, with gender as a cross-cutting theme that underpins all its work.
- By moving to a cycle of six years instead of three years, COL is confirming its commitment to delivering outcomes and impact rather than outputs alone. Development outcomes take time, and a three-year window is insufficient to measure long-term results.
What will COL do in these six years?
- As the only intergovernmental organisation with the mandate to promote open and distance learning (ODL), COL will use its expertise to promote the use of ODL and technology-based approaches to promote the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals. ODL has been used primarily to expand access to formal education. However, more development partners need to be aware of how the use of ODL can support learning in the non-formal and informal sectors. COL will expand this awareness through evidence-based advocacy.
- COL and its partners will develop innovative models of sustainable development and help Member States replicate, scale up and institutionalise these models. COL will be a thought leader and knowledge broker to influence policy and practice in Member States.
- COL will remain at the forefront of technology developments to advise Member States on how technologies can be adapted to local contexts. Given the uneven development of technology in the Commonwealth, COL will develop appropriate options to address the varying needs of its diverse stakeholders.
Learning can empower citizens to take greater responsibility for their own well-being and that of their societies and the environment. Through this Plan, COL will join global and national efforts to transform the idea of sustainable development into a concrete and actionable reality.
Professor Asha Kanwar
COL President & CEO