Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

Using Satellite Technology for Higher Education: Chinese and Indian Experiences

Academic journal article Journal of Development Communication

Using Satellite Technology for Higher Education: Chinese and Indian Experiences

Article excerpt

It is evident from numerous accounts that satellites have the capacity to reach even the remotest places on earth under the open sky. Besides the developed world, many developing countries have tried to harness the potential of this resource towards the attainment of their socio-economic development goals. One of the applications in this regard is the use of satellite for educational purpose. While many countries, such as Thailand, UK, and China, have invested in and have benefited from the satellite technology in terms of imparting education successfully to the masses, there are two countries that have perhaps impacted more lives than others. The countries in case are--India and China.

India was not only involved in world's first satellite educational experiment (with substantial support, both in terms of infrastructure as well as technical expertise, from the US), but has also become the first country to launch a satellite dedicated to educational purposes. China, on the other hand, is an exceptional example of a country that not only developed its space programme without any technological support from outside, but has also been able to use the satellite resources it has for educating a large number of people. Based on the review of relevant literature and the information available on the Internet, this paper reviews some of the projects and the factors influencing the growth of education initiatives involving the use of satellite technology in each of these countries. The later part of the paper discusses the key constraints and the future directions in the field of satellite education.

Development of Contemporary Higher Education System in China

At the time of formation of People's Republic of China in 1949, the country had 207 higher education institutes with 117,000 students (Lianqing, 1996). Out of these, more than 40 percent were concentrated in big cities. By 1972, this number reached 402,000 (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2007). However, the Cultural Revolution kept the number of students as well as institutes very low compared to country's overall population. For instance, only 0.7 percent of the Chinese people above the age of 25 were enrolled in college or university programmes in 1975 (Yuhui, 1988). Post 1978 or after the end of Cultural Revolution, education received more importance from the Chinese government. In fact, China was running the biggest education system in the world by mid-1990s. A measure of this is--China had 952,110 schools with 226,217,100 students and 579,027 adult schools with 66,815,800 students by 1994-1995 (Department of Foreign Affairs of the State Education Commission, 1996). The total number of students, thus, represented roughly around 25 percent of the 1.2 billion-population at the time. In the same year, there were 1,156 tertiary education institutes and 800 higher education institutes that provided evening and correspondence programmes (Department of Foreign Affairs of the State Education Commission, 1996). As many as 178,000 out of the 2,570,100 students in the tertiary education programmes were enrolled in the Radio and Television Universities at this time (mid-1990s). The number of students in regular higher education institutes had gone up to 17,388,000 by 2006 (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2007). The enrollment in adult higher education institutes in 2006 was 702,098 (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2007). However, the number of students in Radio and TV programmes had come down to 25,039 (National Bureau of Statistics of China, 2007).

China's Economic Growth

Before going further, it is imperative to look at China's recent economic growth, as it would certainly provide better career opportunities for the graduates. It is evident that economic development in China after 1978 has been continuous. For instance, between 1978 and 1994, the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate was 9.8 percent. The target was to quadruple the GDP from 1980 to 2000, and then double that by 2010. …

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