03 Jul 2013

Making A Difference - Minister sees international OU language teaching in action

Lynne Featherstone MP

Lynne Featherstone MP

International Development Minister, Lynne Featherstone, has been shown first-hand how programmes and technology pioneered at The Open University are helping communities around the world access education and learn English.

On a visit to the OU’s central campus in Milton Keynes, Ms Featherstone was given a demonstration of how UK-AiD projects are making a real difference in countries across sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. This includes the English in Action (EIA) initiative, the OU working in partnership with BMB Mott MacDonald in Bangladesh, which recently scooped a major British Council innovation prize.

The EIA programme was launched in 2008 and aims to help Bangladesh compete in the global economy by improving levels of communicative English. By 2017 it will have reached some 25 million people across the country.

Ms Featherstone was shown how technology developed at The Open University has played a key part in this flagship programme – making use of mobile devices to help students and teachers learn on the move. Trying the technology for herself, the Minister was able to see how low-cost mobile phones are pre-loaded with teaching and learning materials before being distributed across Bangladesh.

Ms Featherstone said:

“The Open University is a highly respected British institution and I was keen to see for myself the exciting ways they are helping developing countries widen their education opportunities. The technology that is being pioneered by the Open University means people can learn valuable new skills helping them to pull themselves out of poverty and contribute to their national economy.”

The Open University has been at the cutting edge of education since it was founded over 40 years ago, and has been extending this expertise to international development projects for more than two decades. Through a programme of research in partnership with a range of institutions and stakeholders, the University aims to deliver sustainable international development in the fields of global health and teacher education.

Director of International Development at The Open University, Daniel Nti, said:

“The Open University has built up a wealth of expertise in the fields of distance and flexible learning since it was founded which, coupled with an enviable academic reputation, leaves us well placed to make a real difference to millions of people in developing countries across the globe. We welcome the Government’s commitment to international development and it was a pleasure to be able to show the minister how our work is helping people where it’s needed most.”



About The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning. Since it began in 1969, the OU has taught more than 1.8 million students and has almost 250,000 current students, including over 15,000 overseas.

The OU is rated the top university for student satisfaction in the National Student Survey, and has been in the top three universities every year since the survey began in 2005. Over 70% of students are in full-time or part-time employment, and four out of five FTSE 100 companies have sponsored staff to take OU courses.

In the UK’s latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) The Open University was ranked in the top third of UK higher education institutions. More than 50% of OU research was assessed in the RAE as internationally excellent, with 14% as world leading.

Regarded as Britain’s major e-learning institution, the OU is a world leader in developing technology to increase access to education on a global scale. Its vast ‘open content portfolio’ includes free study units on OpenLearn, which has had more than 26.7 million visits, and materials on iTunes U, which has recorded more than 60 million downloads.

The OU has a 41-year partnership with the BBC which has moved from late-night lectures in the 1970s to prime-time programmes such as Frozen Planet, Bang Goes the Theory, James May’s Big Ideas and The Money Programme.

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