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Distances et Savoirs

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 ARTICLE VOL 7/4 - 2009  - pp.683-684


The basic lore of the section – as it appears from the synthesis by R. Roudi Nazarinia and Walter R. Schumm – certainly pleases the distance educator: we are moving from the industrial society towards the knowledge society and this means that the demand for education does rapidly increase. Acknowledging the scarcity of resources all stakeholders need to go for the most cost-efficient solution. Here distance education comes in: it squares the circle between costs and quality in a context of mass demand. Yes, we distance educators are part of the ‘winning team’ and the figures aptly demonstrate that slowly the others are getting the message. Simple stories are not necessarily false but they come with a certain complacency which makes one wanting to throw a spanner in the works. Starting with the techno-deterministic transition to the knowledge society. There is little doubt that the “coupling” between the economic system and the educational system has become tighter. Distance education developed in the sixties together with the economics of education. In this “golden age of education” educators and economists would duet the “education gospel” as being good for the perfecting the personality, as well as increasing earnings (and, on the aggregate level, the GDP). In the eighties, due to either inherent necessity of the consolidation of public finances or the “neoliberal counterrevolution”, harmony faded as it became clear that public investment in education is, at least on the macro-level, by no means a bootstrapping (self-financing) exercise. Since private RORE looked better it suggested itself to devolve costs and risks to the individual learner. At that level bootstrapping may work as long as the “graduate premium” looks good enough. Hence learners choose your subject wisely, i.e. with the cool gaze of an investor, not for love of it! The tight coupling of the education system and the economic system and the dynamism of today’s economies (which Schumpeter referred to as “creative gales of destruction”) means further that there is no escape from “lifelong learning”: “Be prepared” for the exigencies of the ever changing labor market! And mind: Skills are not enough, competencies are required comprising values and attitudes and the permanent “self-motivated” readiness to “dance to the tunes of the labor market”. This is realistic but to praise it as the “best of all worlds” has a slightly “panglossian” ring. For distance educators the affirmative way of telling the story may betray selfinterest. Distance education is best prepared to serve this audience of lifelong learners. These learners constitute a market proper (they work, they can pay); and they can only do so because of the flexibility distance education affords.




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