The first Open University international development programme to operate in Myanmar reached a milestone with its third and largest yet residential school, for 228 academic and support staff from 21 Myanmar universities.
All are taking part in TIDE (Transformation by Innovation in Distance Education) a three-year, £4.5 million programme to improve the quality, relevance and reputation of university-level distance education in the country.
TIDE is led by The Open University in partnership with Yangon University, Yangon University of Distance Education, Yadanabon University, Irrawaddy Policy Exchange, Oxford University and the University of Manchester.
It is the only Asian programme funded by UK Aid’s SPHEIR (Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform) initiative.
In Myanmar a high proportion of university undergraduates – approximately 600,000 students, around 60 per cent of the total – are taught by distance education.
TIDE is supporting university staff to reform and modernise their teaching, support systems and curriculum, to place greater emphasis on relevance and employability and move from print- and broadcast-based learning materials to digital resources.
The staff members are drawn from Myanmar’s two distance education universities and from its 34 ‘day campus’ universities, which in addition to teaching full-time students, currently provide some face-to-face support for distance students in their locality.
Part of TIDE’s remit is to support the Myanmar government in implementing educational reforms which will see the day campuses taking over full responsibility for their distance students and preparing their own distance learning material for the first time.
The scale of the challenge has led TIDE project designers to focus around a single degree subject – Environmental Science, which is in urgent demand in the workforce but not yet offered in these Myanmar universities.
The five-day residential school was primarily activity-led and covered pedagogy and the creation of teaching resources, and subject-focused environmental topics.
Seventeen OU staff members were present, drawn from the International Development Office, LTI and the STEM faculty.
The event was opened by the Minister of Education, Dr Myo Thein Gyi, who was accompanied by British ambassador Dan Chugg.
All 34 of Myanmar’s day campuses are set to pass through the TIDE programme, which aims to act as a catalyst for improvements across the higher education system.
There wil be four residential schools in total for each of the three cohorts of university staff and their impact will go well beyond the single subject area and the individual staff members taking part, says TIDE Academic Director Professor Andy Lane.
“The idea is that staff involved in TIDE give professional development to their colleagues in other departments of their university, creating scope for wider impact.
“This is an area where the Myanmar universities are taking the initiative, it fits with their existing cascade model of working.”