Guyanese students will soon be able to access online tertiary programmes from six universities when the Ministry of Education (MoE) launches the National Open Learning Institute at the end of this month.
According to Director (pro tempore) Dr Jacob Opadeyi, the institute will launch with an offer of 4,540 scholarship placements at Universities such as the Indira Gandhi Open University, the University of Applied Science in Germany, the Open University in the UK and the University of the West Indies Open Campus. The intention is for those granted the placements to begin classes in July.
Speaking with the Sunday Stabroek, Opadeyi, a former University of Guyana (UG) Vice Chancellor, said that over the last few months he has been involved in negotiations to facilitate access to online tertiary education for Guyanese in part as a direct response to travel restrictions created by COVID-19.He explained that the named Universities have concluded arrangements with the Guyana Government while another two are in the final stage of negotiations to offer programmes related to the oil and gas sector.
Minister of Education Priya Manickchand told the Sunday Stabroek in a recent interview that these programmes are a direct reaction to needs.
“This is not the same as having Zoom classes or classes moved online due to COVID-19, these are programmes designed to be executed virtually and, therefore, resources, including library resources, are accessible to students,” she stressed.
According to Manickchand, while her Ministry is working with the University of Guyana and the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) to have their programmes moved online, they will not have the capacity to absorb the large enrollment envisioned. “How many students can I enroll at UG and CPCE right now? I need hundreds of teachers right now. If someone from Region 8 wants to answer the call for teachers and enroll at CPCE, can they access the programme where they are?” she asked.
Manickchand explained that the former Chief Education Officer Olato Sam, who has returned to the Ministry as an Education Specialist, is spearheading the project to move CPCE online.
Opadeyi, meanwhile, is doing an “amazing job” in shaping the Open Learning Institute, she said, while adding “It has been a joy to work with Dr Opadeyi.
”The former UG Vice Chancellor explained to this newspaper that the programmes offered will not only touch on a variety of sectors but run the gamut from undergraduate certificates to Bachelor’s Degrees, post-graduate diplomas and Master’s Degrees, all designed to be completed online.
National Open Learning Institute Scholarship Programme Distinction
“We are making a distinction with the National Open Learning Institute programmes designed to be completed online versus those which are being administered online due to COVID-19…it is going to radically change Guyana’s education landscape because we are looking at people in Region 1, Region 8 or Region 9 being able to study without leaving their home or workplace.
We are looking at people who are in Georgetown, such as police officers or immigration officers who can have all their material on laptops [and] when they are off duty they can read their work and complete their programme wherever they are,” Opadeyi said.
He added that the National Open Learning institute will have a staff of 20 and potential students will register for programmes through the institute.“Our institute will manage the academic programme, the examinations and all of that and the Ministry of Public Service will handle the award of scholarships”, he said.
Additionally persons without a government scholarship can still access the programmes as the general public will benefit from the volume discount which has been secured by the government.
“For example with the National Open Learning institute, a degree programme offered at a negotiated price of US$1,000 will be offered at that price to those who get scholarships and those who don’t so if you do not get the scholarship and you can afford the fee you are open to register with us and pay the fee,” Opadeyi advised.He shared that so far government has been able to secure a 45% discount on tuition fees from UWI once they can ensure enrollment of 150 persons per programme.
The University of Applied Science in Germany, which is offering a Bachelors’ Degree in robotics as well as engineering and management, is offering an 80% discount on their courses. The same university is offered Masters programmes in big data management and engineering management. Questions were raised in November last year when the University of the West Indies announced that it was working with the Guyana Government to offer 20,000 scholarships over five years through the UWI Open Campus. UWI is now only one of several universities that the government will use.
UWI Vice-Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles had said “This is as exciting as anything we have done in any region in the world, because we are on the margin of one of the largest societies, one of the biggest economies and, arguably, one of the most dynamic going forward – the National Open Learning institute.
”The UWI announcement had raised questions about why the University of Guyana appeared to have been sidelined in the process.UG in a subsequent press release said that as the national brain trust, “supplying over 70% of graduates to Guyana and 30% exports”, it wished to assure that it was in preliminary talks on online education and scholarships.
“The national University has not ceded its mandate and responsibilities and UG is now offering more than 1000 courses online as part of `The University of Guyana Blueprint 2040’ strategy framework”, the release said. The government had, however, contended that UG was not able at this point to enable the large and varied number of scholarships it envisaged.
Source: “National Open Learning Institute – Guyanese Gov’t to offer 4,540 online scholarships at six universities” in the Stabroek News