Sunday, November 13, 2011

Analysis of eLearning and Distance Learning Polices in Zambia

(Presented at 5th eLearning Africa Conference, Mulungushi International Conference Centre, Lusaka, Zambia)

Introduction
The paper seeks to analyse the policy making process and content of distance Learning and eLearning policies in Zambia. This is made by looking at the content of the Open and Distance Learning (ODL) Policy at the Technical and Vocational Teachers College (TVTC) and the National ODL Policy by the Ministry of Education and the ODL Policy Guidelines by The Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training (MSTVT). An assessment is made of how effective these policies are and in gaps in the policies. Important lessons for Zambia and Africa are also drawn. Recommendations are made on how e-learning and distance learning policies can be made relevant to the needs of various learners. After the presentation, listeners will gain new knowledge and skills on policy development in elearning and distance learning. Generally elearning practitioners have tended to provide elearning and distance learning without a policy framework or where one exists a weak policy framework.

Currently in Zambia, the two major providers of education and skills training are the Ministries of Education and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training. The Ministry of Education is responsible for education from Early Childhood, Basic Education (Grades one to nine), High School Education (Grades ten to twelve), tertiary teacher education (certificate to degree level), university education (certificate to doctorate level). The Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training (MSTVT) is responsible for Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training (TEVET) from certificate to diploma levels.

Background
Distance learning and e-learning in the TVET sector in Zambia is a recent development offered by a handful of institutions. On the other hand the University of Zambia has been offering a variety of degree, diploma and certificate courses by distance learning since its inception in 1966 with a current enrolment of about 1,700 students. The Zambia Open University, a private university, which has been operating since 2005, has grown from about an initial enrolment of 500 students to the current 3,500 students. In the TVET sector the largest provider of distance learning is the Technical and Vocational Teachers College with an enrolment of over 1000 students. Other TEVET institutions offering distance learning are: Zambia Institute of Business and Industrial Practice (ZIBSIP) offering business programmes, Zambia Institute of Business College (ZIBC), and National Import and Export College (NIEC) and Evelyn Hone College. In-service Training Trust (ISTT) offers distance learning for small stakeholder farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa. A total of 3 of these institutions are public while the other 3 are private. The approach to distance learning in these institutions is that of using stand-alone distance education packages and wrap around packages.

The Technical, Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA) has developed guidelines for Distance Vocational Training for institutions that wish to begin distance learning. TEVETA has produced these guidelines for sale to institutions. One of TEVETA’s functions is to assist in development of learning materials for distance education on a cost sharing basis with training providers.

With regards to e-learning a handful of colleges have been offering this type of learning. E-learning can help in addressing issues of access and providing access to training. The National Information and Communication Policy has targets on the promotion of ICTs in education, research and development. The policy goal is to “integrate ICTs in the education system and develop the nation’s Research and Development (R & D) capacity to support, facilitate and contribute to the development of the key sectors of the economy including development of appropriate local ICT products and services” (Ministry of Communication and Transport, 2006:28). E-learning in TVET institutions is offered by Evelyn Hone College of Applied Arts and Commerce.

Analysis of eLearning and Distance Learning Policies
Policy analysis is a generic name for a range of techniques and tools that are used to dissect, breakdown, organize, evaluate and analyse policy. It can also be defined as "determining which of various alternative policies will most achieve a given set of goals in light of the relations between the policies and the goals". Some of the policy analysis tools that have been used include: seven criteria of good policy, 6 C’s of Policy Options, 3 E’s of Policy Options, Cost-Benefit Analysis etc.

This paper applies the tool of 6 C’s of Policy Options. These are:
1. Concentration
2. Clarity
3. Changeability
4. Challenge
5. Coordination
6. Consistency

The Ministry of Education recently developed a National ODL Policy in 2009. The policy was developed by a committee drawn from the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training, Zambia National Broadcasting Society, Zain Zambia Limited, University of Zambia (UNZA), Mulungushi University and Zambia Open University. The broad composition of the policy development team gives the ODL Policy wider acceptability as policy makers, ODL implementers, ODL support providers like the media: ZNBC and communication technology: Zain were involved. The goal of the draft ODL Policy is to create a learning society in which citizens are not restrained in learning and to guide the provision of education through ODL in order to promote an innovative and productive, relevant lifelong learning education and training accessible to all citizens.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Vocational Training developed Policy Guidelines for ODL in TEVET. These were developed by a committee drawn from MSTVT, MOE, UNZA, TVTC and the Technical Education, Vocational and Entrepreneurship Training Authority (TEVETA). The goal of the ODL Policy Guideline is to create a learning environment in which citizens will access relevant lifelong learning and training without any restrictions. The objectives of the guideline deal with issues of increasing access, Improving delivery of ODL through use of appropriate ICT, Providing effective Learner support and Providing opportunities for training of ODL providers.

Applying the 6 C’s of Policy Options to the above Policy and Policy Guideline the following can be noted:

1. Concentration
The Policy and Policy Guideline have not yet been implemented. However since ODL is already being implemented e.g. at UNZA and ZAOU under Ministry of Education and at TVTC and ZIBSIP under MSTVT, it can be noted that these institutions have ODL Operational policies which are working and delivering the intended outputs. This can be noted in the growth of the number of students studying through ODL. There is need to however ascertain if the money, human resource, time and other resources are enough. This could be done after one year of policy implementation.

2. Clarity
These refer to the clarity of the goals and the steps to their attainment being straightforward. It is important to ensure that as the policy and policy guidelines are implemented everyone involved knows what the goals are and what their role is. The policies have addressed this area by having a section on implementation framework which spells out the roles of key stakeholders.

3. Changeability
This seeks to establish if the policy has enough flexibility to ensure that it can be adjusted to changing conditions and also whether policy implementers can change they way they do business. This is a major challenge because change is never easy to implement. Policies normally run for a five year period. There is need to develop the organizations that implement the policies into learning organizations that can easily adapt and change where need arise.

4. Challenge
How realistic is the policy in terms of it’s scope? Do the goals challenge the organization and yet remain realistic? The scope of the policies is large enough and realistic. However this needs to be further analysed as the policy is implemented.

5. Coordination
Does the policy allow for the exchange of information among implementing official? It does as the policy development process involved various stakeholders. In addition, the two ministries have Inter-Ministerial committees that can be strengthened to allow for information exchange.

6. Consistency
Are the goals consistent with the objectives, the objectives with the actions? Are the goals internally (with one another) and externally (with other policies)?

Recommendations
1. There is need for wider consultation of all stakeholders in ODL and elearning to ensure that the policy is relevant and effective.
2. There is need for a strong monitoring and evaluation committee to ensure the policy goals and objectives are constantly monitored and evaluated and where need arise changes are made.

Conclusion
Having a good policy is not the end of the road in policy making. It’s just the beginning. The real work starts once the policy is launched. That is where consultation and collaboration become key. African nations have a lot to learn from each other and outside Africa on how to implement good and effective ODL and elearning policies.

References
FIDA (2006) Policy Analysis Management. Mbabane: FIDA

Ministry of Education (1996) National Policy of Education. Lusaka: Ministry of Education.

Ministry of Communication and Transport (2007) National ICT Policy. Lusaka: Ministry of Communication and Transport.

TEVETA (2004) Guidelines for Distance Vocational Training. Lusaka: TEVETA.

7 comments:

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