You will have heard the rhetoric-politicians and educationalists, industrialists and social commentators all proclaiming that the major assets of the country are not the natural resources but the people. They make calls for the country to invest in its people if it is not only to survive in the 21st century but also to prosper. For many countries around the world investment is being made in education and training-if not always at the levels that are commensurate with the identified needs nor the demands being made upon their educational systems. In these contexts the potential of distance learning methods, and particularly the use of Communications and Information Technology (C&IT), are often seen as part, often a large part, of the solution. However, as you will read in The Open Classroom, although we face formidable challenges, and there are no simple solutions, there are indications from experiments and innovations that the challenges can be met.
Early in this book, we are told there are over 100 million children who do not go to school-and in the foreseeable future have little prospect of doing so. Later we learn that there may be as many as 15 to 20 million children who are 'internally displaced people', or refugees, who could be an asset to their country, their own or adopted country, rather than a liability-if they had skills to contribute to the economy. We learn of large numbers of disadvantaged children, children in remote rural communities and drop-outs from conventional schools-children that represent a potential that is not being realized and which no country can afford to waste. However, we also learn of projects that demonstrate how identified needs have been met both in school settings and outside them. The contributions in this book, assembled from around the world, illustrate that whilst C&IT has enormous potential, 'low tech' solutions can not only be more appropriate to target audiences but also cost effective. The accounts of virtual schools in Canada and the United