Women's Empowerment and Distance Education

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Distance education has been seen as a potential solution to help women achieve their educational goals. The majority of distance learners are adult women (Hunter, 2007). For many women, balancing a job, family, community, and education can be a major challenge (Furst-Bowe, 2002) when society sees women as homemakers, mothers, housewives, and child minders (Kwapong, 2007). In the Middle East, taking time away from husbands and children is a major issue for wives and mothers (Omar, 2005). In Pakistan, women in rural areas are often unable to attend formal schools because of the inflexibility of the formal system (Haque & Batool, 1999). In Africa (e.g., Nigeria), illiteracy remains at the center of women's empowerment problems. Thus the innovation of distance education is a solution to overcome educational barriers.

Simonson, Smaldino, Alright, and Zvacek (2009) defined distance education as institution-based, formal education where the learning group is separated and where interactive telecommunication systems are used to connect learners, resources, and instructors. Simonson et al. explained that changes in society, politics, economics, and technologies have a major influence on the status of distance education. However, learners in rural areas perceive distance education as a hope and an opportunity to achieve their goals. Lorenzetti (2007) defined the world of distance education as a means to observe how online learning can help students manage geographic distance and time to pursue an education. For many students, including Palestinians, distance education aims to release the pressure on the traditional institutions and to make higher education available to employed students who cannot attend face-to-face classes in any society (Salah, 1992).

EFFECT OF DISTANCE EDUCATION ON WOMEN

Ojo and Olakulein (2006) and A. Khan (n.d.) noted that education is the sum of knowledge and experience that makes an individual a better person. The impact of educational attainment level in any society is a true value of the distance education phenomenon. In addition, education opens the opportunities and choices for women to work and to become more selfconfident. Ojo and Olakulein (2006) stated,

Given the fact that education enhances a person's sense of self-worth, confidence and also creates an awareness of capacity, women will become more assertive of their roles in social activities and take initiatives for themselves rather than wait for the decisions to be made for them. It can also be surmised that their income earning potential and development will rise with the new educational status, (p. 151)

According to Gokool-Ramdoo (2005), education enables women to discover, explore, and develop different aspects in their society. Furthermore, Bukhsh (2007) explained that education is the key factor in empowering women to take their rightful place in society. Education gives status and confidence in decision making. Studies showed that women with low educational levels were affected by limited career opportunities, and women who pursued higher education had higher confidence and gained more career opportunities (Haque & Batool, 1999; Kwapong, 2007).

Khan, Shazli, Khan, and Sait (n.d.) and Ibrahim, Rwegasira, and Taher (2007) explained that most Arab and developing countries' governments cannot afford to establish higher education institutions that meet the citizens' needs. Distance education has succeeded in solving that dilemma and provided the chance of pursuing higher education at a reasonable cost (Ibrahim et al., 2007). According to Khan et al. and Ibrahim et al., distance education is growing rapidly. According to Kamal and Sultana (n.d.), the distance open learning system is a solution for economic issues; it is a cost-effective and flexible way of educating people. The use of open and distance education is no longer a matter of choice; it is the only option for some countries due to their social, cultural, economic, and mobility issues (A. …