26th ICDE World Conference news - Open learning must support global ethics and development


A “tricky world with pervasive war and tragedy” is nevertheless one that “could see the golden age of open learning”. This was the prophetic view of Barney Pityana, a keynote speaker at the Presidents’ Summit of the International Council for Open and Distance Education, or ICDE, held in South Africa last week.

He and fellow keynote speaker, Switzerland’s Christoph Stückelberger, viewed current political and financial world crises as opportunities for open, distance and e-learning, both to support human development and spread a global ethical culture.

They were addressing the Presidents’ Summit for open, distance and e-learning institution leaders at the 26th ICDE World Conference held at the mega-resort Sun City, north of Johannesburg, from 14-16 October.

The conference is hosted by the University of South Africa, or UNISA, under the theme “Growing Capacities for Sustainable Distance e-Learning Provision”. The Presidents’ Summit ran for the first time in parallel with the ICDE World Conference, and focused on themes of leadership and governance.

Pityana, former vice-chancellor of UNISA and current president of the convocation at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, sketched a backdrop of a world in “its worse situation since World War Two”.

He cited events in Syria, the Middle East and Ukraine, the rise of militaristic Islamic fundamentalist groups and “a Europe that, hot on the heels of the Greek financial crisis, finds itself dealing with a huge humanitarian problem”.

“Europe is not alone. In Africa we have the rise of Boko Haram and al-Shabaab,” said Pityana, adding that the current state of world affairs reinforces the social purpose of education. “Distance education comes into its own in times of crisis as human ingenuity seeks alternative means for survival.”

Read the rest of the article on the conference website.