Distance Education in the
Perspective of Global Issues
Learning Development Institute
The history of international development is more than 50 years old. The origin of its prehistory may be located hundreds of years earlier, when the efforts of navigators and new conceptualizations by scientists started changing our idea of the world and of our place within it (e.g., Boorstin, 1985; Koestler, 1959). Those who had the economic power, and thus had access to the technology of the day, discovered that they were not alone in the world and that other peoples— mostly seen as essentially different and invariably inferior—co-inhabited the planet. Different forms of, often exploitative, cohabitation emerged during colonization. That period ended during the third quarter of the last century. Emancipation and decolonization, largely driven by the formerly oppressed, led to the recognition among those who eventually relinquished power that not everything in the world was right. In fact, it laid bare great inequalities that conflicted with long-held moral convictions—convictions that had, until then, been solely applied (and even then only partially) to the societies of those who held the convictions. Such inequalities, it was realized, were immoral and they threatened stability. A new world order was called for.
Initial ideas about development focused on technology transfer. The world was seen as polarized between developed and underdeveloped nations (terms that were later replaced by industrialized and developing nations). A simple rationale underlay the development philosophy. Those countries that saw themselves as developed had little to learn from those that required development; contrariwise, the developed nations felt obliged to share their expertise with those whose different state of development was assumed to have resulted from the absence of such expertise. There was thus a formidable urge on the part of some to teach and an assumed great need on the part of hundreds of millions of others to learn. While the development discourse reflecting this philosophy has become more nuanced over the decades, much of its basic assumptions are still very much alive.