Webinar on ODL and Gender – What were Our Takeaways?

Webinar on ODL and Gender – What were Our Takeaways?

An educated girl or woman can contribute much more to the society than any man or uneducated woman. Not only caring a child systematically, an educated woman also can work and support the family. She can run a business and create employment opportunities for others. Educated girls can delay the early marriage and avoid maternal health risks. They also can have control over the resources, enjoy leadership rights, challenge the cultural and social myths against the girls, become the role models for other hard-to-reach girls and women, and contribute meaningfully to the economic development of the country. Education, therefore, is the crucial means of improvement of the economic, social and cultural conditions of millions of deprived girls and women.“Everybody is a genius … “ (Albert Einstein). The whole world today is being unable to exploit the genius of millions of girls and women because of their limited access to education. Amartya Sen (2003) rightly pointed out in his speech to the Commonwealth education conference, Edinburgh “if we continue to leave vast sections of the people of the world outside the orbit of education, we make the world not only less just, but also less secure”. As conventional schooling, for its built-in inflexible nature, does not have the capacity to include the vast majority of the population especially girls and women, open and distance learning thus got the highest importance to include all the people who like to learn irrespective of their age, gender, and socio-cultural positions.

To have better understanding of ODL systems and its importance in girls’ education, the GIRLS Inspire Project of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) arranged a crucial webinar on 27 October 2016. The webinar focused on the concepts and models of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) and outlined the role ODL in mainstreaming the efforts of GIRLS Inspire initiatives being implemented by the partners for enhancing the life and livelihood of the hard-to-reach girls. The high esteemed resource person in the webinar, Dr. Godson Gatsha, Higher Education Specialist at COL, pointed out the key concepts and models of ODL and tried to concretely outline the power of ODL in gender mainstreaming in the areas of the world where conventional open schooling can’t include a lion share of the girls and women. The presenter addressed 3 critical issues in the webinar – strengths of ODL as a method of learning, the importance of Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) to scale up ODL and the role ODL to eliminate gender inequality. In the first part of the webinar, the presenter explained methods and principles of ODL. The critical point in ODL is it’s learner centeredness. Learner’s context, learner’s experience and learner’s socio-cultural conditions are taken into consideration in ODL and that’s why, any learner whether she/he got disability, married/unmarried, young/older, indigenous /common, female/male can have equal opportunity for learning. This great feature of ODL made it highly appropriate to address the gender inequality in education meaningfully. In addition, due to the invention of new technologies, ODL has become more inclusive system of learning, which can help the marginalized girls and women have education and training at their own pace.

In response to a question regarding the appropriate ICTs for ODL, the presenter specified that any kind of ICT integration must be aligned with learners’ readiness, access and contexts. It never should be like one thing fit for all. Learners’ context is critical in this case. Another question among others was regarding the type of the contents for ODL. The response was that contents must not be the same as in conventional schooling. ODL materials – both study materials and assessment contents -must be based on learners’ contexts, learners’ experiences and be gender responsive. As an example, if a remote girl never experienced train journey, she must not be asked to write a story on journey by train. She may be asked to write a story on her experience on a journey – it may be on riding on a donkey or walking or riding car whatever.

I found the whole webinar to be very much resourceful and interesting. For me, one of most critical takeaways from the webinar was ‘ODL is an inclusive method of teaching and learning that can be accessed by anyone from anywhere in any biological, social and cultural conditions”! I liked the example of the great leader Nelson Mandela who had his education through ODL while he was in prison on Robben Island for 18 years.

Could you share one thing you have learned from the webinar that can fit with your current or upcoming initiative with GIRLS Inspire? I am looking forward to your contribution in this regard.

Comments ( 3 )

  • Mahfuzul bari

    The webinar on ODL and Gender was really informative and enjoyable. From the webinar I have got a comprehensive idea on ODL. As a Project Manager of Child Early and Forced Marriage (CEFM) project I have learnt about the appropriate contents of ODL method, especially for remote and obscure areas. As my program areas are in remote areas and technologically less advantaged , I have to focus more on printed materials for ODL which I have learnt from the webinar.

  • Sajeeda Nahid

    I learned that we can provide gender based sensitive education in pen Distance Learning and other vocational or LSBE courses by promoting equality,learner contentedness, accessibility,responsiveness,flexibility, inclusiveness and trans formative leadership and by empowering them in decision making

    • Mostafa Azad Kamal

      Thanks Sajeeda. Yes I agree that ODL can fit with all types of courses..doesn’t matter whether it is formal or nonfirmal, vocational or management training. Always learning design matters! Of course, thanks to technology for making this process easy.