<<January 31, 2001>>
Archived distributions can be retrieved by clicking on the top lines of our home page at <http://www.friends-partners.org/GLOSAS/>.

Ruby Va'a <vaa_r@usp.ac.fj>

Konai THAMAN <thaman_k@usp.ac.fj>

P. Tapio Varis, Ph.D, Professor <tapio.varis@uta.fi>

Dear Ruby:

(1) Many thanks for your msg (ATTACHMENT I), in response to my list
distribution of "Tapio's essay on e-learning and intercultural
conference - January 26, 2001" which can be retrieved at

(2) I thank you very much for your obtaining the transcript of Dr.
Thaman's excellent keynote speech made at the annual conference of the
Asian Association of Open University (AAOU) in Manila last October (ATTACHMENT II).

Dear Dr. Thaman:

Thank you very much, indeed. I was greatly impressed with your keynote speech.

Dear Tapio:

(3) Her paper may be of your interest in relation with the culture of your
indigenous people in Lapland or in Northern Circle which you once told me.

Best, Tak

Subject: Re: Tapio's essay and Konai's paper
Date: Monday, January 29, 2001 4:34 PM
From: Ruby Va'a <vaa_r@usp.ac.fj>
To: "Takeshi Utsumi, Ph.D." <utsumi@columbia.edu>

Dear Tak,

Thank you very much for assisting me in obtaining Tapio's
permission to reprint his essay. As you can see, he has replied
already. I am very grateful for that.

In return, I have obtained the electronic copy of Kona'i's paper and
is in the attachment to this email. I'm happy also as it drew my
attention to her paper - she was on sabbatical last year and I had
not caught up with her activities. Isn't she a wonderful speaker?
She is a superb ambassador for our region and fine example of the
regional academics we have at USP. I hope the file comes through OK.

I have been unable to speak to Richard to pass on your message
as he was out of the office yesterday. However, I'll try again today.
USPNet has been very active and became the answer to the
problems of reaching students who were unable to return to
campus in the second semester after the attempted coup. It is
expexted that it will be full swing this semester.

All the best and I hope New York is not too cold right now.
warm regards,


On 28 Jan 01, at 18:53, Takeshi Utsumi, Ph.D. wrote:

Dear Ruby:

(1) Very glad to hear from you again.

(2) By a copy of this msg to Tapio, I am requesting him to reply to your

(3) When you visit his web, you can have his photo, too, which you may use
for the publication of his essay in your newsletter.

(4) Pls tell Richard Wah that I am anxious to hear of the usage of your
USPNet since its inauguration last February. I wonder if I can get the
diagram of the increase of its usage by month.

(5) Can you reach the following person?

Dean of Humanities
University of South Pacific
1168 Suva, Fiji
Tel: (679) 306035
Fax: (679) 305053
Email: thaman_k@usp.ac.fj

Pls retrieve my list distribution "Contacts made in Manila last month -
November 20, 2000" by clicking Corrrespondence: Mid-2000 in the home page of
our web site which is listed in my electronic signature below.

As you see, I asked her a copy of her keynote speech at AAOU conference in
Manila last October. Would you kindly get its electronic form and send to
me? Thanks in advance.

Hello to Richard.

Best, Tak
On 1/28/01 4:06 PM, "Ruby Va'a" <vaa_r@usp.ac.fj> wrote:

> Dear Tak,
> Hello again. I hope you had a peaceful Christmas and a smooth
> transition to the New Year.
> Thank you for the continuing messages I am receiving as part of
> your circulation. I read them all and find them very interesting,
> informative and some I have used. You will remember my writing to
> you last year for permission to use that draft Internet Society paper
> in my report - I included that and attributed it to you as I did not
> receive any other word. I also used a brief note you had in another
> email about World bank's GDLN (they had a visit to our university
> late last year).
> I am asking once more, if I could use part of another of your
> messages? This Tapio's column on e-learning. I shuld like to re-
> print it in our ON PIRADE newsletter which is the newsletter for the
> Pacific Islands Regioanl Association for Distance Education. Many
> of our membership (both institutional and individual) do not have
> easy access to such information or the people you are in touch
> with (and their publications), and it would be good to have this item
> on e-learning for our Pacific people. Is it possible please?
> many thanks,
> Ruby

Rethinking distance education

Konai Helu Thaman**


every day
do something that scares you
he said
take risks
and don't forget
to wear sun-screen

so i took my lap-top
and deleted my past
saving only the part
that threatened to digest
the dreams that dared
to frighten a frail
and divided heart

and in my attempt
to re-create the moment
i found several scars
left by unknown people
i have loved in my mind
and wondered

what judgements
or inconvenience
i would cause if caught
trying to escape
from the fear
of getting burnt
basking in a slice of sun

* Keynote address, 14th Annual Conference of the Asian Association of
Open Universities (AAOU), Manila, Philippines, Oct.25-27, 2000.

** Professor of Pacific Education & Culture, UNESCO Chair in Teacher
Education and Culture, and Head of School of Humanities, the
University of the South Pacific, Fiji.

Thank you for this opportunity to share (with you) experiences from
our region on the conference theme "Open Learning and Distance Education:
Ideology, Pedagogy and Technology." What the MC said about me is partly
true: he left out a very important piece of information - that I teach in
order to make a living but I write poetry in order to live. My response to
your conference theme, particularly the technology part of it is contained in
the above poem, which for me, is a reminder that we must remain conscious of
the power of modern technology to help as well as destroy our educational
goals. (I should really sit down now but since the conference organisers
expect a paper from me, I'll continue).

Please allow me to focus my presentation on aspects of the conference
theme that relate to issues of equity and access, with specific reference to
the small island nations of the South Pacific Ocean (Oceania), a region
characterised by small populations, cultural diversity, geographic
fragmentation and isolation, and economic dependence, and usually referred to
as "the hole in the Asia/Pacific doughnut" (Fry, 1996:305).

I believe that most of us are here because of our belief in the
important role of Education in ensuring that life as we know it today is
maintained, both locally as well as globally. Conferences such as this
enable us to take stock of what we have done, to reflect upon our experiences
of the past and seriously question taken-for granted perceptions about
education in the context of an increasingly changing and unpredictable world,
in order that we may be better equipped to face the challenges ahead.
Preparing this address was, for me, an education in itself, as I tried to
critically reflect on the role of my institution, the University of the South
Pacific (USP) as a major distance education provider in our region, as well
as my own work as a distance educator and academic manager.


The issues of equity and access are not new to our university, a
regional, multi-modal university offering educational programs face-to-face
in its three campuses and 12 university centres, as well as via distance ( or
"extension" as this type of delivery is popularly known). With the exception
of Tonga, all of the island countries that we serve were colonies of
metropolitan powers and became politically independent only in the last
thirty years. Formal education was introduced to our region as a means of
enlightenment and conversion to Christianity. Today opportunities for formal
education, especially higher education, have always been limited in a region
where schooling has a relatively recent history and where post-secondary
education was mainly for the privileged and more advantaged of island
populations. Indeed, before the establishment of the USP in 1968, most
Pacific Island students had to leave home in order to attend high school and
virtually all had to leave their home countries in order to pursue university
and other tertiary level studies.

The USP was established and funded by the governments of Britain,
Australia and New Zealand in order to address the problem of access to higher
education in the region. It was also part of a focus by the international
community on the democratisation of higher education as well as the
disadvantaged. In our region, university education has always been
associated (some would say 'too closely') with national as well as regional
development strategies and USP's main mission was to provide for the
educational and training needs of its member states which are (Cook Islands,
Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands,
Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu), which have a total population of only
1.4 million, but are spread out over a sea of islands that extends some 32
million square kilometres of ocean.

The geography of our region necessitated the early development of
distance education as the USP became a pioneer in the use of satellite
communication technology to enhance and develop its distance teaching
programmes in the early 70s. Today the USP continues to provide learning
opportunities to groups of students who cannot or do not wish to participate
in conventional education, either because of an accident of geography or
birth, the cost of attending schools and/or university, or simply failure to
reach the cut-off points. In 1999 out of a total of 10,109 students enrolled,
49% (4,943) studied via the distance mode. It is our intention to increase
Extension enrolment by 10% each year for the next five years.

The expectations of increased off campus study is being facilitated by
recent upgrades in the university's information and communication system,
USPNet, a project which has involved heavy investment in software development
and computerised communications in the hope that this would result in
improved institutional links, administration and better learning outcomes for
students. USPNet is billed to be a modern and cost effective communications
system owned and operated by the USP and provides for a flexible education
delivery system aimed at enhancing distance study. Jointly funded by the
governments of Japan, New Zealand and Australia, it is a private stand-alone
system consisting of a satellite earth station and associated facilities in
each of the university' 12 member nations. The facilities allow communication
between the main hub station at the Fiji campus and each of the other
campuses and centres via audio conferencing, email, telephone and fax (see
overhead on USPNet). Since its establishment, USP has graduated over 11,000
with formal qualifications and thousands more have been able to access both
credit and non-credit programs. Distant learners have included people in
full-time employment, housewives, as well as school leavers. Today, through
programmes offered on its three campuses in Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu, as well
as through distance study, the USP continues to provide higher education
programmes that are cost effective and relevant to the development needs of
the region it serves.

But despite Pacific nations' commitment to educating their people, the
fact remains that only a very small proportion of the region's population
(fewer than 5%) are able to access higher education institutions, either in
the region or outside. Moreover, in the past few years, we have witnessed
some overseas institutions offering education programs in USP member
countries. The services they provide include distance education courses as
well as on-site programs supported by resident tutors. Some programmes,
particularly vocational ones, are offered through existing national
post-secondary institutions. In an increasingly de-regulated and competitive
environment, we anticipate more overseas-based educational institutions
establishing themselves in our region. Most of these are profit-oriented,
targeting a small but influential and affluent clientele in areas such as
business and commerce, using curricula imported from metropolitan countries,
with little effort to adapt to Pacific contexts. This plus the push for
market-driven economies and educational development, awareness of and concern
about issues such as cross cultural transfer, globalised curricula and
appropriate learning strategies have become more urgent because in these
trends and developments, cultural diversity is being blurred and services and
products standardised and homogenised.

Over the last decade, many people have been led to believe that the
new IT would enhance our access to different educational programs as well as
help us make money, the implication being that any person, group or nation
can and does differentiate itself by presenting distinctive qualities in the
form of cultural or intellectual services that would attract consumers.

But in PINs, as in most post-colonial situations, access to the prime
sites of power, whether it be law, media or education, lies predominantly
with already privileged groups, most of whom are monied and urban based
(Wilkin, 1997:236). While this phenomenon has been clearly challenged (but
not significantly changed) in developed countries it has not yet been
seriously addressed in Oceania, where the challenge is not necessarily aimed
at wealthy and white middle class group per se, but rather at educational
institutions with western philosophies, ideologies and pedagogies that
continue to ignore the way Pacific peoples communicate, think and learn;
ideologies that do not emphasise the values and belief systems that underpin
Pacific indigenous/vernacular education systems in which the majority of
learners/clients are socialised. The challenge is compounded by our region's
heavy dependence on overseas financial and technical aid (Thaman, 1990) and
the recent rush by some Pacific Rim universities and organisations to package
education and offer it to our countries as another purchasable commodity in a
market and consumer-driven world. An obvious reflection of the global
economic restructuring ideology that is being pushed on everyone influential
organisations such as the IMF and the World Bank, it is unfortunately
changing global as well as local maps, reflecting what Bottomley (1995:24)
calls the 'new geography of inequality'.


So far, I have attempted to provide the context in which open and
flexible learning and distance education in our region may be considered. For
most PINs, distance education is seen as an integral part of national and
regional educational initiatives, such as lifelong learning, basic education,
democratisation of education etc. For others, it is a vehicle for ensuring
better and increased access to higher education as well as a response to
criticisms of traditional approaches to teaching in schools and university
campuses. And because many politicians as well as people generally are
demanding rapid responses and cost efficient higher education, distance
education (or extension education as it is commonly known in our region) is
increasingly seen as a panacea for fast relief to the problems of equity and
access, as one Director of Education said recently:

This is what we've all been waiting for - a system where our students
can live in their little islands while studying courses from USP or
Harvard or whatever - and in the end, get higher degrees. In my
country, we aim to have a computer on every pupil's desk and allow all
students to access the Internet. In this way they can communicate with
the best minds in the world. Moreover, they should also be allowed to
take charge of their own learning, and not have to depend on one
professor sitting here on campus.


The type of arguments that have been advanced for distance education
are well known. In addition to overcoming geographical distance and
isolation, it is seen as helping to realise goals relating to cost
efficiency, accountability and productivity, flexibility, cost sharing,
internationalisation and consumer oriented education. These, plus the fact
that distance education is actively pushed by overseas consultants and aid
donor agencies whose interests will also be served by Pacific countries
adopting their particular recommendations, means that distance education is
on everyone' lips. However, it is interesting to note that those who are most
passionate about open and flexible learning, distance education and the
educational superhighways are usually not practitioners of these modes as
they seem to be more cautious. In terms of actual practice and experience,
our Director of Education may be disappointed with the following general
findings as outlined by Paul (1998), and confirmed by our own studies:

i) High front-end costs. Distance education is cost-efficient only when a
critical mass has been surpassed (Rumble, 1997);

ii) Low completion rates. With few exceptions, completion rates in open
and distance learning institutions are lower than for traditional on-campus
institutions and this cost must be factored into any economic assessment of
distance education (Woodley 1994);

iii) One way learning. This model is not suited to complex learning tasks
and provides little for differences among learners. At the USP much of the
communication has been and continue to be one way through correspondence, and
more recently, by television and video. The tyranny of the authority of the
teacher originally applied by Cook (1989) to classrooms may be equally
applied in distance education, through top down course design, insufficient
provision for interaction and critical thinking, or inadequate student
support systems (Paul,1998:19).

iv) Lack of attention to individual learners. Research has shown that most
successes in distance education have been among highly motivated often
part-time adult learners. Furthermore, many teaching staff at USP are now
questioning whether distance education can match the broader benefits of
campus life especially for young full time undergraduates experiencing
freedom to pursue ideas and socialise in an open atmosphere for the first
time in their lives. This is not to deny the tremendous advantages of
distance education but simply to recognise that education is much more than
an academic endeavour (Paul,1998:19)

v) Lack of attention to local cultural contexts. Distance education
courses tend to undervalue the importance of local context and culture to
learning. I have often spoken of and written about the need for sensitivity
to the cultures and contexts of Pacific learners (Thaman, 1992, 1993, 1995,
1996, 1997a, 1997b, 1998, 1999, 2000)

vi) Lack of awareness of the fact that Technology is not value-free. We
often make the mistake of starting with our technological 'toys' and not with
the learning needs of students. Institutions need to plan for the
introduction of new changes and to be sensitive to its impact on both staff
and students. As Paul (1998:20) warns, "our biggest problem with educational
technology lies in how we interact with our students not with the supporting
hardware and software.


And so we continue to face the many challenges in distance education
(Thaman, 1997a; Va'a, 1997; Wah, 1997) today despite improvements in many
places, including our use of technology. For example, at the institutional
level, we continue to be concerned about the impact not only of the content
of distance education materials but also the mode of delivery itself. The
majority of our students grow up in societies where traditionally they learn
from close kin and from one another, through their interaction with each
other as well as with their environment and where doing, listening,
observing, and imitating are basic means of learning. Furthermore, the
traditional role of the teacher is being undermined as the focus is shifted
to the learner in learner-centred approaches that are encouraged through
distance learning. It is interesting to note here that despite attempts to
ensure that our instructional materials are "stand alone" our students
continue to request face-to-face interactions with tutors (Thaman, 1998;
Landbeck and Mugler, 1999). Perhaps this is mainly because of the
decontextualised nature of the content of most course materials which
continue to be largely Eurocentric in outlook, academic in orientation and
culturally undemocratic in its expectations of students.

In terms of the mode of delivery of distance education, we now view
geography and its impact as having been conquered by modern information and
communication technology (in the form of print and electronic media), making
the physicality of place irrelevant to social interaction. Over our upgraded
USPNet students and staff may be transported to any number of island
countries without ever being in them. The traditional sense of place,
emphasised by most Pacific societies, is lost as an artificial sense of
'being' is introduced. This loss of geographic centredness or "place",
although a feature of global cultures, may cause some of our students to
become disoriented because where they are physically will no longer determine
who and where they are socially (Meyrowitz, 1985:115).

The need to better contextualise instructional materials by including
more local (Pacific) content continues. Whereas in the 70s this was more
difficult because teaching staff did not have the knowledge or the experience
to carry out such a task, recent advances in ethnoscience, ethnobiology,
ethnomathematics and folk taxonomy have provided much for science and
mathematics course writers to choose from and the use of field-based studies
in the social sciences has assisted staff in making some of our programs more
relevant and meaningful to learners (Thaman, 1997). In my experience, the
valuing of indigenous notions of learning, knowledge and wisdom and including
these as legitimate areas of study in the curriculum of higher education have
proven to not only enhance students' understanding of their own education,
but has helped students to realise that Pacific cultural knowledge and
languages are worthy of study at the highest levels of formal education
(Thaman, 2000). Unfortunately, in most disciplines, much remains to be done.


There is no doubt that over the last three decades, we have witnessed
how distance education has improved access to higher education in our region,
but the education itself is exposing more students to the conflicting demands
and expectations of their home cultures and those of their formal education.
Many more are facing learning modes, codes of conduct, curriculum activities
not to mention metaphysical belief systems that are more typical of foreign,
metropolitan cultures than those of their home countries, and an increasing
number of them are leaving their homes in order to make use of their
education elsewhere.

This is probably because of the fact that much of what our students
are learning, either face-to-face or via distance, are of little practical
value to them given the realities of their home cultures and societies.
(Thaman, 1993, 1997; Va'a, 1997; Wah, 1997). For example, most of our
graduates will not know the uses let alone the names of plants and animals in
their island environments, or how to fish or pursue agricultural practices -
knowledge which will continue to be the bases for the subsistence affluence
that gave many Pacific societies their cultural and economic resilience
(Fisk, 1972) and, according to sustainable development experts, will form the
foundation for sustainable living in the future. Recent regional and
national environmental concerns about Pacific environments must first address
the loss of traditional environmental knowledge among Pacific peoples
themselves before considering long term solutions to environmental problems.

By now you would have guessed that my concern with distance education
is also a concern about the possible impact of the type of education and
training that is made available, on people as well as our environments.
Lawton (1971), a British curriculum expert once wrote that a curriculum was a
selection of the best of a culture, the transmission of which is so important
that we cannot leave to chance. Today, the content and process of much of our
education are selections of the best of foreign, globalised cultures and not
those of Pacific learners (Thaman, 1993b). Critical analyses of what
constitutes open, flexible, and distance education need to continue in order
to ensure their relevance in the contexts and realities of our learners
because education must be organised for the production of knowledge and
skills that serve to develop and enhance our various societies and their
cultures, NOT to perpetuate their marginalisation.

That task is difficult since those who are best placed to do it have
largely accepted the ideologies, educational philosophies, pedagogies and
psychologies of learning and learners that they were taught at universities
and colleges in metropolitan countries, often despite their own knowledge and
experiences to the contrary. Today in Oceania, distance education is not
only fashionable but desirable, and impersonal and individualistic approaches
that deemphasise the human element and embrace new information technologies
have come to be seen not only to be 'natural' but also 'inevitable'. Yet
there is nothing "natural" or "inevitable" about distance education. It is,
perhaps, what Foucault calls a 'fiction which functions in truth', where the
ideas associated with distance education have become incorporated into the
way in which the system works in practice, producing the very thing it claims
to describe through the "truths" that are presented in its delivery. In
other words, distance education is structured the way it is because it is
precisely what is sought. This often means that the theories and ideologies
associated with higher education in general and distance education in
particular, have themselves become 'truths' that serve to proclaim desired
outcomes as 'normal' and 'natural', hence pathologising opposing
perspectives. We must be careful not to advocate something simply because our
own education has largely been through it and/or our jobs depend entirely on it.

A further issue that needs repeating relates to the fact that distance
education continues to be very closely associated with globalised curricula
and opportunities to sell education at the global market place. In Oceania,
we know that globalisation, however that is defined, is not about globalising
Pacific cultural knowledge and wisdom but is about the globalisation (once
again) of mainly western cultural knowledge and the importation of values and
practices which have already served to disempower many Pacific peoples
especially the majority who live in rural areas and whose lifestyles are the
least westernised. Even UNESCO has warned that the mass export of the
cultural practices and values of the industrialised and post-industrialised
world, including their languages, communication and entertainment networks
and non-sustainable consumerism, may well contribute to a sense of
dispossession and loss of identity among those who are exposed to it
(Teasdale, 1997:1). The critical reflection of the type that I am advocating
would help us realise that the education that we are offering is not
culture-free and gender-central, nor does it occupy a kind of ideologically
neutral high ground, because academic, scientific and liberal beliefs and
values, like all beliefs and values, are embedded in a particular cultural
curriculum and agenda (Vine, 1992:169-210).

As educators we know that we cannot change the labour market nor
eradicate discrimination. But we can begin by helping to create a
considerably more culturally democratic education for our students and play a
more positive role than many others have so far been prepared to concede
possible. We can substitute a more culturally inclusive approach to
instructional design by incorporating different worldviews and ways of
knowing into the usual Eurocentric and Anglo-American approaches we have
adopted so far. We can begin by recognising the need to address the
dominant paradigm with which discourses in distance education have been
limited so far, and advocate for the incorporation of local knowledge and
wisdom into the content of university education (and hence distance
education) in order to encourage the valuing of ways of knowing associated
with peoples in the Asia/Pacific region and the acceptance of their multiple
wisdom, thus enhancing their employability and further developing their
critical abilities, knowledge, entrepreneurial and occupational skills.

Furthermore it is our responsibility to make all learners aware of
such tensions between what they are exposed to through their (distance)
education and their various cultures, and encourage critical analysis of all
instructional materials. We know that there are forms of indigenous knowledge
that are in contradiction to the inevitable march towards the rationalisation
of globalised culture and knowledge, a trend that may be compared to the
spread of monocultures in agriculture where imported hybridised,
fertiliser-dependent seeds produced at a profit for multinational
corporations crowd out the indigenous local varieties.

In my own writing and teaching, I have tried to be more inclusive,
open and flexible by incorporating Pacific content as well as pedagogy in the
courses that I teach. In a second year paper on "Educational Theories and
Ideas", students are required to analyse their own vernacular educational
ideas before studying major western educational thinkers and theorists, and
to compare their own educational values with those of the western canon. We
know that in the high-status universities of the west there is the typical
objection to what they call "area studies" or "ethnic studies" courses as
elevating the ideas of "lesser" writers and not the so-called 'great
writers'. This is exactly what I am trying to do at our university. I also
try to show that educational philosophies are intricately connected to the
linguistic discourses of local languages and cannot be said to be 'universal' (Thaman, 2000).

Such denial of universality is, as you know, a contradiction with the
historical mission of the 'university'. Theoretically it should be possible
for my ideas to be available in the global market place. But we know that
there is no level playing field in the global selling-power market, because I
know about the amount of local content I see on our TV screens. I also know
that the nature of the modern information age means that some forms of local
writing and knowledge are getting universal electronic distribution while
others are deemed to be marginal. We will need to work harder towards
reclaiming cultural democracy in distance education and to move closer to
making education not only more open and flexible but more culturally inclusive as well.


In concluding, I wish to say that I do recognise the contribution of
western analysis in offering me a way of understanding how distance
education, its content as well as methods of delivery might affect Pacific
societies, both positively and negatively, as I have described. I also
acknowledge the fact that distance education offers opportunities for
individual mobility despite the fact that it may also serve directly and
indirectly to encourage group inequalities and improved access to formal
education may not necessarily improve equity. Over the past ten years much
work has been done in industrialised countries on the way inequalities in the
broader society have been sustained through formal education, how schools
prepare students for unequal futures and how students construct identities
which themselves perpetuate these inequalities (Weis, 1994). The heavy
emphasis of most distance learning materials on academic subjects and
achievements as well as the use of English and other foreign languages would
suggest that formal education is an important agency for the perpetuation of
unequal conditions which ideologically suggests exactly the opposite role for
educational institutions, as sites for foreign cultural transmission. There
is therefore an urgent need for more intensive dialogue to define and
formulate alternative policies and practices for distance education in
response to cultural diversity in our region. Views, although diverse
themselves, have at least one thing in common, and that is the commitment to
cultural democracy, human rights, and the need to combat discrimination and prejudice.

Although the need for alternative strategies for research and
knowledge creation has become a significant element in the recent debate
about development education, the need for illuminating indigenous knowledge
in that process has NOT been adequately addressed by educators both in our
region and beyond, nor has it been subjected to transfer into the educational
discourses of industrialised nations. This is despite efforts by the
international community to affirm the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In most
international discourses on education, such disenfranchisement is usually
felt by most "minority groups" including women, who feel that the existing
democratic framework and corporate economic structures do not sustain and in
some situations, even undermine, the commitment to their special needs and
wishes (Middleton, 1992). High tech education may well serve to further
entrench already unequal access to higher education.

For most people in Oceania, improving access to formal education can
only happen through practices that value and recognise existing inequalities
as well as our cultural knowledge, histories, contexts and realities. Open
and flexible teachers will be expected to provide more contextualised
learning experiences and more democratic learning environments that will
encourage students' acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes that are
supportive of a critical appreciation of all cultures, including their own.
Responsible distance education providers must understand the complex ways in
which cultures influence the way people behave and learn, inside and outside
institutions, if they are to broaden educational opportunities. I sincerely
hope that my contribution today might help in facilitating such an
understanding and that the current euphoria over internationalisation,
democratisation and globalisation of education, over virtual universities and
the like, will NOT prevent the emergence of a real synthesis of western and
non-western educational ideas that provide for a more culturally inclusive
education for the majority of our people. I end with this little verse, about such a synthesis:

thinking is tiring
like paddling against the waves
until feeling comes lightly
late into the pacific night
when the islands calm me
stroking my sorrows
i ask for silence
and they give it
i ask for forgiveness
and they raise my face


Bottomley, J. 1995. Distance Education, open learning and the regional
problem, in Seward, D. (ed) One World Many Voices: Quality in Open and
Distance Learning, International Council for Distance Education and Open
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List of Distribution

Ruby Vaa
Pacific Islands Regional Association of Distance Education (PIRADE)
Organiser, USPNet Roundtable meeting
University of the South Pacific (USP)
Laucala Campus
Suva, Fiji

Dean of Humanities
University of South Pacific
1168 Suva, Fiji
Tel: (679) 306035
Fax: (679) 305053
Email: thaman_k@usp.ac.fj

P. Tapio Varis, Ph.D, Professor
Acting President, Global University System
Chairman, GLOSAS/Finland
Professor and Chair
Media Culture and Communication Education
Hypermedia laboratory
University of Tampere
P.O.Box 607
FIN-33101 Tampere
Tel: +358-3-215 6110
Tel: +358-3-614-5247--office in Hameenlinna
Tel: +358-3-215 6243--mass media lab in Tampere
GSM: +358-50-567-9833
Fax: +358-3-215 7503
* Takeshi Utsumi, Ph.D., P.E., Chairman, GLOSAS/USA *
* (GLObal Systems Analysis and Simulation Association in the U.S.A.) *
* Laureate of Lord Perry Award for Excellence in Distance Education *
* Founder of CAADE *
* (Consortium for Affordable and Accessible Distance Education) *
* President Emeritus and V.P. for Technology and Coordination of *
* Global University System (GUS) *
* 43-23 Colden Street, Flushing, NY 11355-3998, U.S.A. *
* Tel: 718-939-0928; Fax: 718-939-0656 (day time only--prefer email) *
* Email: utsumi@columbia.edu; Tax Exempt ID: 11-2999676 *
* http://www.friends-partners.org/GLOSAS/ *

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