H. Dean Nielsen and Maria Teresa Tatto
This text was written as part of the Basic Research and Implementation in Developing Education Systems (BRIDGES) Project, directed by the Harvard University Institute for International Development, under the Cooperative Agreement No. DPP-5824-A-5067 with the Office of Education, Bureau of Science and Technology, United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
This chapter reports on new efforts to assess the costs and effectiveness of teacher education at a distance in two developing countries in Asia: Sri Lanka and Indonesia. These efforts were meant to provide policy-makers with fresh insights from research designed to overcome many of the weaknesses of the past. Before this research is described we will focus briefly on the historical and educational context of the distance-education programmes in the two countries involved.
Sri Lanka has distinguished itself as the only major country in the South Asian region (which includes Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka) to achieve a high rate of literacy and enrolment in basic education. In the mid-1980s about 85 per cent of the school-age population was enrolled in basic education, and the literacy rate was close to 80 per cent. This achievement should be seen in light of the fact that Sri Lanka is also one of the poorest countries in the world (GNP per capita was US $339 in 1984).
This impressive accomplishment is rooted in the government’s commitment to universal primary education, a commitment which was made shortly after gaining independence from the British in 1948. This strong national commitment to education is also supported by the religion of its early national leaders, Buddhism, which stresses the importance of cultivat-ing the mind. The growth of access to education since independence, however, has not been accompanied by a growth in educational quality.