Since the inception of the Satellite Transmission Advance Network for Distance learning project, or STAND, in 2001, satellite dishes and computers have been installed at 10,000 primary and secondary schools in remote regions of northwest China. This groundbreaking program jointly sponsored by the Li Ka-shing Foundation and the Ministry of Education will enable school children to receive education programming provided by CETV through a multimedia satellite transmission platform.
STAND is a major component of the Foundation’s HK$300 million program to develop education and healthcare projects in northwest China. Based on the success of this program, the Central government has invested a further RMB1.3 billion to develop a similar distance learning platform for over 500,000 primary and secondary schools over the next five years.
Distance learning is becoming a major trend worldwide as Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) facilitate knowledge acquisition anytime, anywhere. International experts on open learning gathered in Hong Kong on February 18 to discuss the latest developments in this emerging field at The 21st World Conference on Open Learning and Distance Education, hosted by the Open University of Hong Kong and sponsored by the Foundation.
Professor Wei Yu, China Vice President of CAST and former Vice Minister of Education, conducted a presentation entitled “Reshaping Destiny: Knowledge Sharing and International Cooperation in Science Education”, in which she provided an update on STAND’s progress.
According to professor Wei, the advance of Information and Communications Technologies presents both challenges and opportunities for developing countries. Our ability to bridge this digital divide has wide-ranging implications for the provision of quality education.
Wei refers to the digital divide as the disparities in technological development between developed and developing nations, and those between large urban centers in eastern China and western China.
Statistics show that in 2002, 4.6% of China’s total population, or 59.1 million, are Internet users, but only 0.2% of the population in Guizhou are Internet users. Efforts to bridge this digital divide should be made to prevent China’s less developed areas from lagging further behind, Professor Wei said.
“Our platform must conform to international standards and meet the demands of our urban centers”, Professor Wei said. “It must also serve as a platform of distance learning for our less developed regions in the West”.
To facilitate equal access for all students in remote areas, a high-speed, multimedia platform based on dual mode interactive Internet access via satellite transmission will be used.
Professor Wei said this is the first time that such a massive distance learning infrastructure has been installed within such a short period anywhere in the world. The multimedia satellite transmission platform will enable teachers and students to share educational resources and dramatically transform the mode of learning and teaching in rural areas.
18 Feb 2004