Women and Distance Education: Challenges and Opportunities

Women and Distance Education: Challenges and Opportunities

Women and Distance Education: Challenges and Opportunities

Women and Distance Education: Challenges and Opportunities


This book provides valuable insights into the situation of women in distance education around the world. A wide variety of evidence from different countries supports the conclusion that open and distance learning has the potential to provide equal opportunities in higher and continuing education.


It is both a pleasure and a real privilege to be invited to write the foreword to Women and Distance Education by Christine von Prümmer. Dr von Prümmer's work in evaluation and institutional research at the FeU in Hagen, Germany, over more than twenty years, has made a central contribution to the understanding of gender and education, and of women in distance education (DE) more specifically. Elements of the work have been presented at a number of conferences and in journal articles, and are here set out in full for the first time. Why is it so important?

First of all, this work is important in the ways in which it addresses a core concept in open and distance learning, that is openness itself. Dr von Prümmer has been amongst the first to ask, within the discipline of educational research, about the openness of distance learning, with its home-based and part-time learning opportunities. She addresses the rhetoric of distance learning, and compels her readers to ask, with her, open for whom exactly? The questions she directs to her own institution concerning the low number of women students raise issues which cannot be ignored about the gendered nature of curriculum and of teaching and learning infrastructures. Where institutions are gender-blind, exclusion is accompanied by its legitimation. What after all can be the problem? Dr von Prümmer's work answers that question, and answers it with meticulous research and not with rhetoric or prejudice.

The work that is done here for women has great importance for all humanity. It establishes the heterogeneity of learners, and opens the path for others to examine ethnicity, social class, the social geography of rural and urban learners, the context of students with special needs: the necessity, in other words, of considering who learners are if we are to aim conscientiously to meet their needs. Thus the feminism which drives this work supports all the minorities who make up the majority of our learners, and cannot be dismissed or diminished as a separatist or divisive paradigm.

This is not to say, however, that research of this kind has not met such opposition. It has been sustained through a network of women researchers and practitioners, who for a significant period met as the Womens'

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