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 todays 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
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.