To'abaita Authority for Research & Development (TARD)

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Distance Learning Centres Project to open soon in North Malaita

A Distance Learning Centre is currently being completed and should open soon in 2007 at the Arnon Atomea Community High School in North Malaita to improve rural communities' access to quality education and vocational training, through distance education.

According to the Malu'u Supervisor, Mr Peter Kwanairara, the building construction is being completed by contractors by this month. The computers and other equipments should be arriving soon so that installations can be done to be followed by the official opening of that first ever rural communities' distance learning initiative in North Malaita.

The Distance Learning Centres Project (DLCP) is an European Union and NZAid funded component of the Education Sector Investment and Reform Programme (ESIRP). It is being implemented for the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development by the People First Network (PFnet) of the Rural Development Volunteers Association (RDVA). It is a 3-year project, that is now to be extended until the end of 2007.

The project is establishing a Solomon Islands SchoolNet, with nine distance learning centres located in rural community high schools in each province, equipped with broadband Internet through a newly established VSAT network. The project is working with education providers building capacity to deliver distance education in support of the curriculum, for in-school teacher training, technical and vocational training (TVET), open and flexible learning.

The centres will be run as multipurpose community telecentres, building on PFnet's sustainable rural networking experience, and are expected to have wide impacts in rural development.

Despite the fact that distance learning is an old concept in Solomon Islands, this project is unique because it will use modern Internet-based technology to make studying by distance much easier, more effective and more efficient. Each centre will be solar powered and will have initially six laptop computers, printers and scanners, an HF radio and will have full-time supervision to help learners use the equipment and to follow distance courses and receive training using Internet-based synchronous and asynchronous tution tools such as collaborative platforms and learning management systems.

The centres will also be open at certain times each day for general “Internet Café” use, enabling better communications and access to services. In order to protect school children and others from exposure to inappropriate materials, the network will be fully screened using a sophisticated “content filter”.

Source of pics: PFNet

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