On Wednesday, 1st March 2023, the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology together with its stakeholders, validated the National Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Policy. This was after an intensive 3-days high-level stakeholders’ meeting which started on Monday, 27th of February, 2023 and was held at the National Accreditation and Quality Assurance Authority (NAQAA). The Commonwealth of Learning is supporting MoHERST towards this development.
The National Open and Distance Learning Policy is intended to provide the operational instrument that will guide the management and coordination of ODL programmes and materials. It will serve as reference material for those interested to participate in the delivery of ODL as practitioners, learners, policymakers or regulators.
Speaking on behalf of Professor Pierre Gomez, the Hon. Minister of Higher Education, the Director of Tertiary and Higher Education of the Ministry, Anthony G. Mendy highlighted that the Ministry has been working towards increasing the access rate of higher education and has always been confronted with the high investment in constructing learning centres.
“This means to use alternative modes of learning in promoting access has received attention in many countries. Thus, The Gambia has taken the right initiative to explore the use of Open Distance Learning,” said Director Mendy.
He went on: “The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic took the educational system by surprise and most of the institutions of learning were not prepared for such an emergency. Almost all institutions and policymakers develop initiatives to ensure that learning continues through technology-enabled learning. The use of radio, television, online and distance learning became prominent. All these happened without the necessary frameworks to guide these emergencies. The issue of enhancing blended learning began to echo among the educational stakeholders. That is why the Ministry is quite aware of the need to forge partnerships in enhancing the growth and development of the higher education ecosystem”.
Professor Jane-Frances Agbu, Higher Education Adviser, Commonwealth of Learning, highlighted that the Commonwealth of Learning is happy to be part of this important meeting of stakeholders’ engagement towards the development of a National ODL policy for Higher Education.
“We have seen that education for the future should be Affordable, Accessible, Blended, Sustainable, and Inclusive. We need to start with the last person in the queue so no one is left behind,” she stated, adding that an ODL policy no doubt provides pathways towards achieving these empathic ideas.
“We count ourselves privileged to be part of this life-changing event, that will ultimately act as a catalyst for equitable, inclusive, cost-effective and quality learning opportunities for the citizens,” said Prof Agbu.
According to Professor Momodou M. Fanneh, the Local Consultant for the Open Distance Learning (ODL) policy, education is the key to changing the world. Thus, ODL provides another dimension compared to conventional ways of learning.
“This policy will make a huge difference and give clear directions. ODL is cost-effective and has a lot of benefits through engaging more people. The challenge will be access to technology and electricity shortages in the country. This is owned by all of us. That is why we need to implement and sustain this policy once it is finalized,” said Prof Fanneh.
During the course of the 3-day workshop, there were various presentations on key thematic areas such as; institutional experience on the use of ODL, the role of quality assurance in ODL, an outline of the ODL Policy, and development of the ODL Policy among others. Stakeholders were also divided into different working groups and tasked to develop the Mission, Vision and Goals for the ODL Policy. They also made vital contributions to the key policy focus areas such as the leadership and government of the ODL policy; funding, budget and resource management; staff training, collaboration, and networking, among others. The ODL policy will be shared with all stakeholders for their final review of the amendments.