Saturday, August 20, 2011

Right to Education Denied: Why millions of People Can't Access Higher Education?

Imagine that you're a bright young individual who has just finished high school. You're eager to explore the next steps on your educational path. Yet, for a variety of reasons, all you see is one closed door after another in your quest for higher education. With no way to pursue your studies, you may slowly become trapped in the all-too-familiar cycle of poverty and repression.

This is a reality for millions of individuals around the world. Even though they have the motivation and qualifications to pursue higher education, they don't have the means to do so. Several factors are at fault:

• Higher education is not affordable: Higher education costs are skyrocketing and people simply cannot afford the escalating prices.

• Insufficient facilities in the local region: For a number of places in the world, a potential student is either in or out to the region's local university based on the results of a placement exam. If the student doesn't pass the placement exam, there are no other available institutions located nearby for the student.

• Inability to leave families to go to facilities located elsewhere: For some potential students living in villages or towns in remote areas, they may be accepted to a university in the city and need to relocate. However, the lost wages of the potential student, coupled with tuition fees, would place an economic hardship on the family.

• Part of a cultural or political regime that restricts movements and opportunities of populations: In many parts of the world, certain social castes, ethnic groups, religious affiliations or genders are not allowed to access higher education. Women, in particular, tend to not have the ability to study at universities in many regions.

The Internet is the great equalizer that allows us to bypass these roadblocks and offer accessible education to people all over the world.

University of the People is not "reinventing the wheel" by offering education via the Internet. However, it's using the wheel efficiently to organize free and open educational resources into structured programs that, when combined with social networks and volunteer professors, can offer sustainable and affordable higher education. It has opened a door to higher education for millions, who otherwise don't have the opportunity.

How Open Educational Resources are changing the face of Higher Education

With all the talk about the cost of higher education, there is an underlying current bringing about a radical change in education. This quiet, yet revolutionary force, is both directly and indirectly changing the bottom line in the price of attaining education. Behind the curtains in higher education are Open Educational Resources.

"Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use or re-purposing by others."

Recently, well-known author Anya Kamenetz covered Open Educational Resources and various pioneer learning start-ups in her free book The Edupunks Guide to a DIY Education. It is over 100 pages long full of online free or highly affordable knowledge resources. The OER movement is not only growing: it is exploding.

What perhaps is overlooked in daily conversations is that the most important aspect about OER is that it enables the best quality knowledge material to travel free of charge to the most remote and underserved places in the world. Education is no longer only for the elite privileged few; or for those saddled with a lifelong debt burden to achieve it. Education is now for everyone and anyone driven, motivated, inspired and ready to seek it out online. Money is no longer a prerequisite to a quality education -- only a computer and an internet connection remain.

We are part of a new era. From free learning sources such as MIT OpenCourseWare, to fully formed tuition-free degree programs such as those offered by University of the People, the phrase "burdensome tuition" is becoming a phrase of the past. Worldwide disparities in educational access based on economic situation or geographic restriction are being leveled out.

Think what a world we are becoming -- a world where money is not required in order for individual and collective intelligence to be expressed and compounded. Removing money from the equation, we will see in a very short time what universal affordable education will achieve in changing, brightening and modifying the world we live in.

Huffington Post