OpenEd Wk 15 *** Considering this Course on Open Ed

This Open Ed Course illuminated several dimensions of the OER movement and baseline information of open education that I had not considered. Since I enter this field from a totally different arena of international development and international education, I was not familiar with the history of the field and issues that hamper the expansion of the field as well as many considerations on where the field has potential to grow.

Because of this course, I am more particularly intrigued by the issues of copyright, sustainability, and localization. While the readings of this course have helped me to answer several questions, they have also left me thirsty for more discovery and with a long list of readings and resources that I would like to still visit, digest, and relate to the projects I am involved with in rural developing countries.

What I recommend for improving the course is incorporate a day for to highlight more case-studies and resources related to the SUCCESSES of localization and sustainability in the developing world. I know that the majority of those who are interested in this movement are focused on higher-ed in developed countries. However, I feel that one day of the course could emphasize developing countries.

I am interested and willing to help find these kinds of examples and to write them up or “scrub” them for integration into the course. A few ideas I would suggest integrating are:

1) Mahabir Poon’s experience with technical capacity building by creating wireless mesh networks for use in remote Himalayan villages through volunteer support and donated resources like used dish satellites and hand-made towers attached to trees for line-of sight connectivity.

2) Karma Tscherings UNESCO-sponsored Community Learning Center initiative in Nepal utilizing local radio networks and internet to receive requests for information, research information to answer critical questions, and live broadcasts to disseminate useful information to rural villagers. All of these broadcasts have been archived and could be reused, remodified, redistributed.

3) ProLiteracy Worldwide’s experience allowing localization of manuals and learning tools for their global network of partners (over 100 in Latin America, Africa and Asia) – and showcasing tips on training trainers to be able to localize and customize content to the specific needs of their participatory literacy classes.

OpenEd Wk 14 *** Reflecting on the Future of Open Education

I believe that the future of Open Education is something that will impact all arenas of education; for this reason, the view of the future depends on the lens through which one looks - whether that be higher ed, secondary ed, primary ed or basic ed. I am primarily interested in basic education and the arena which I am interested in is developing countries.

However, I have found the blogs written by other classmates as a great tool to inform ways that Open Education may change all arenas and I have found that there are several cross-cutting dimensions that are shared across the board.

Kurt Johnson references the necessity that the future of Open Education will have to be grounded in what is practical. I cannot agree more. With regard to developing countries, I think that the "leapfrogging" theory - of jumping certain steps to get to others (e.g. going straight to wireless networks instead of laying expensive cables across the Himalayas) has relevance, but that it harbors potential loopholes where it is not actually possible to circumnavigate important steps (e.g. awareness raising, training, development of localized feedback mechanisms).

I liked Andreas' comments about embracing the students' point of view and creating systems that champion their perspectives. I know this is the main goal of Open Education; however, the future will be laden with the task of creating more opportunities of students' participatory governance of education and there will be roadblocks faces and, necessarily, battles to be overcome. I trust that as this movement grows that I will become more articulate in my ability to share with others and to hopefully contribute to the cause in a more effective way.

Finally, I think that the financial considerations (as mentioned by Jon Thomas ) are very real and that more people will see the benefit of the Open Education movement than those who will oppose it. I recognize that I am altruistic (and I am grateful that many others are in this course as well) and I am confident that "what is right" will triumph over the mechanisms that keep enlightenment and progress from the masses. I believe we are all required to be more informed as well as to be more zealous advocates if we wish to see this movement pick up the pace.

OpenEd Wk 12 *** Reflecting on Learning Objects

I appreciated reading other people's perspectives and analogies on Learning Objects. I particularly enjoyed reading Jon Thomas' metaphor on masonry:

"Yet, brick laying is but one skill within the much wider field of masonry. I once saw a highly skilled mason building a fireplace out of rocks that had been dug up during a building project. At times, he used the rocks that he retrieved “as is” without any change beyond washing them off. At other times the rocks would have to be broken and sanded down to fit into the right position. Most open resources, in my mind, are much closer to the field of rubble masonry than they are to bricklaying."

I concur. I believe this is the value of OER and the difference it holds from Learning Objects. In the Open Education movement, we are all master masons with our own trowels. I think this metaphor could be customized for learners from every discipline in order that they may better grasp the concept of the movement and think of ways that they may build their own masterpiece - whether it be a fireplace, a stone wall, or a kitchen oven.

OpenEd Wk 11 *** Open Education and Learning Objects

Yes, I really do agree that open educational resources (OER) "fix" many of the problems experienced by those (ME!) who work with learning objects. This is because there is so much more to localization than just understanding "technically interoperable content systems."

An example.

I have worked in developing countries for the past 12 years doing literacy work for rural groups. Our focus has always been on participatory learning - where those who gather are the same ones create the curricula. The process of participatory learning beings with a dialogue about issues in their lives that are important, identifying the subjects and issues that they would like to change, finding information, learning it, digesting it, working on the skills they need in order to solve such problems, and then identifying and procuring the additional resources/money/supplies necessary to support their initiatives (personal and community) for positive social change.

Manuals (textbooks) exist around the globe; many of those in developing countries are transplanted and (sometimes, but only rarely) modified from Western-based texts or from National Curricula or international NGO programs.

Since many learning tools are not customized to the needs of those in the villages, the potential for educational impact of a textbook is hampered due to barriers which would allow only limited customization (e.g. in parallel to learning objects, it is only possible for teachers to be involved in a “technical way” as they worry about “interoperability of learning systems” in order to do such things as reorganizing chapters, excising/inserting subunits of chapters, integrating existing case studies or story problems published in the text but not necessarily localized to the culture/politics/economy of the village where the textbook is used).

Since the OER movement targets the opening of educational resources, learning objects are no longer in the textbook format at all. Although templates exist, the pictures, the case studies, the story problems can all be tailored to the needs of the learners in the "classroom" to the extent that the teacher/facilitator knows where he/she can access more resources and identifies ways that it is suitable or not for the needs of the learners in his/her jurisdiction.

We can see how OER tools may be more useful than LO through another scenario:

My sister, Natasha, works in Sudan on a public health project. Knowing that I have several resources for literacy in Africa here at home, she emailed me requesting support for an HIV/AIDS prevention training that she was conducting the next day. She did not wish to reinvent the wheel, but had no training tools available on demand.

I scanned chunks of an HIV/AIDS manual (pictures, stories, songs, case studies, and facilitator props/questions) designed for rural Kenyan villagers and sent her several PDF files by email.

With these, she was able to translate the text, customize the cultural context, and rearrange the order of questions (dialogue triggers) in order to make it most suitable for the needs of those whom she was to train the next day.

She further tailored the tools by involving local staff members and villagers in the localization of the training packet and incorporated indigenous pictures, examples, and tools from Sudan. Building from a base of resources which I sent to her, she avoided a lot of wasted time trying to redevelop a tool which had already been pilote-tested in the field in Kenya and proven to be useful and relevant to rural African villagers.

OER has the potential to take learning objects to a new level of usefulness and accessibility. I believe that, while LO are a start to supporting customized learning, OER fixes the technical issues and expands the opportunity for more teachers/learners/users to be involved in the process of making these learning resources even more useful and increasingly accessible to more people across the globe.

OpenEd Wk 10 *** Reflecting on Week 9 Blogs about Readings

I liked reading Bobbe Allen's insights from C.K. Prahalad's Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid:

"One of the lessons learned from micro-financing could be helpful in OER: “…the incumbents in this space were all struggling to turn profits since they were used to working as donor-funded and –supported institutions. This dependence often affects scalability and sustainability (p.118).” Sound familiar? What they needed was a ‘point of presence/distribution point’ in the rural area. Instead of brick and mortar and staffing expenses they leveraged the relationships, knowledge and rural networks already in existence."

I believe this is the ultimate way that we will be able to transform rural communities (in the developing world and also in the USA) in order that they can more fully tap into the potential of OER. It is only through relationships (social capital) and through existing networks that we can integrate a new phenomenon that will bless the lives of many.

As Bobbe says:
"There are lessons to be learned from BOP (bottom of the pyramid). We know the virtual piece is important, we just can’t figure out the content. Give the responsibility to the SHG’s (self-help groups), those who have the greatest reason to see it succeed. Just start building, as in Wikipedia, and let the village grow."

Amen, sister! I think it is by putting the tools in the hands of the locals and by empowering them to take on the responsibility that they will not only contribute more valuable resources, but that they will actually create learning tools that are more valuable (to them and to the world).

OpenEd Wk 9 *** Elective Reading Synopses

The White Man’s Burden offers several insights to the open education movement. Specifically, I appreciate the following points:

I. There is no panacea “Big Plan” that will eliminate poverty
II. Localization by locals is the best secret of success
III. Searchers, not Planners will create sustainable outcomes

I. There is no panacea “Big Plan” that will eliminate poverty
While I did not agree with all of Easterly’s points, I did find several salient features of his book, particularly the supporting arguments he gave for why big plans tend to fall apart. With regard to the open education movement, I believe this means that we should not expect massive funding or a blanket policy as the means whereby OER is taken across the globe.

It is irrational to expect that there will be a “one-size-fits-all” model; nor is it prudent to assume that everyone in developing countries should be online in order for development to transpire. There have been several failed development initiatives in the past, the majority of them from very well-funded, even possibly well-motivated, Western bi-lateral and multi-lateral donors who are interested to “dictate” how development should happen.

Easterly argues that a “piecemeal approach” to development will reap the greatest rewards because these kind of initiatives lend themselves to accountability (on the part of both the donor and the recipient). With regard to open education, I believe this means that we must always think of “the one” – meaning, the teacher, the student, the user – and empower that individual with the tools so that he or she can create his or her own educational course.

II. Localization by locals is the best secret for success
Since the open education movement might be considered a “Western movement” at the moment, occurring mostly in so-called “developed” nations, in higher-education arenas, there are myriad challenges that arise as we consider application of these initiatives among rural, disenfranchised, lower-literate groups.

Easterly’s points regarding localization are scathing in their depiction of very inadequate approaches to facilitate localization, let alone to allow locals their right to tailor development programs to their own interests and needs.

The World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and US Agency for International Development are examples of big funders who give billions of dollars with correlating strings attached. These strings have often hampered development because opportunities for localization are deficient at best and nonexistent at worst.

I have seen this while working on a USAID-funded literacy initiative in Pakistan during 2005, 2006 and 2007. Even though the feedback from locals inspired change for the steering of the initiative, the USAID leaders would not listen to the locals and forbade us (myself and other field workers on the ground) to actually execute the localized plan.

If the open education movement is to learn from this, it is important that indigenous and native practitioners, change agents, government leaders, and community representatives (from across the entire economic spectrum of a nation – those with economic capital and those with social capital) be given the ability and the right to access, localize, and share the content they wish to utilize. Since this is a core philosophy overriding the open education movement, I feel the foundation from which we build is a firm one.

III. Searchers, not Planners will create sustainable outcomes
Easterly differentiates between those who design and dictate programs for others from those who seek out opportunities and create solutions for themselves. Essentially, he draws a clear line between those who provide for dependents from the outsider (planners) and those who provide self-reliantly for themselves from the inside (searchers).

Although this point dovetails with the previous one regarding localization, it also expands on the economic concept of supply and demand. If a village is not ready for the project and if they are not committed to own the responsibility of the initiative, then that project will be short-lived and sustainability will be impossible.

However, if the locals are interested in a particular initiative, and are finding within their own community the resources in order to partake in the bounty of an opportunity, then those people are more likely to meet with success as a new initiative is launched.

This dynamic is true with regard to my involvement in the Youth-Managed Resource Center (YMRC) project in Nepal. This is a community-initiated library and learning center initiative which seeks to share knowledge and information with rural villagers via trained youth managers. Youth are vehicles whereby rural folk may search for health, agricultural or economic information via appropriate technologies (e.g. computers, internet, CD Rom, and other tools).

After conducting a situation analysis of several communities with interest in YMRC sites, we found two villages that were particularly ready for additional start-up support to build their own center. Since the demand was high in this area, the project was met with eager support by an involved community leadership board and well-prepared youth managers.

By contrast, a different village was informed about the YMRC by an NGO representative who encouraged the villagers to try this new YMRC initiative, even though they didn’t quite understand the need for computers or the benefits of being “online.” But, according to NGO direction, the center was initiated at that time (May 2007).

One year later (May 2008), we visited this site only to find that very few villagers were using the computers and that, in fact, many people still did not even know the purpose of computers nor that they were available for community use. Several youth protested that they were not properly trained nor invited to participate in the initiative and that, although they were interested

If the open education movement is to learn from this example, it is important to focus efforts in areas where demand is high and where locals prepare for and commit resources (time, money, and volunteers) in order to launch their OER initiative. NGOs and international donors must safeguard against supply of services and of initiation of project sites where the demand does not initially exist.

Reading this book was valuable for me because I found myself questioning my own motives for being involved in development and by trying to wrap my head around the ways that I can learn from past experiences (both personal and vicarious) as we approach the opening of educational resources in developing countries, particularly in Nepal.

I found some of Easterly’s suppositions to be narrow-minded and egotistical. I feel that he makes broad, sweeping declarations and sometimes faulty analogies. I feel that, although he makes a clear-cut distinction between the “planners” and the “searchers,” there is often a grey area where planners are also searching and where searchers also start planning. I think it is important to actually bridge the two groups anyway, instead of to accept the differences and preserve the territorial camps. That is the only way that the open education movement can truly do so much good while avoiding so much ill which has transpired in the past.

OpenEd Wk 7 *** Licensing Open Education Resources

Perhaps more than any other issue of this course, I am still wrestling with this one. I still feel like a novice and I am interested to discuss this issue with others in the course and with folks in the field where I work (e.g. developing countries in Asia and Africa).

I believe that the Creative Commons ShareAlike clause is mostly sufficient for the protections that authors want to secure when sharing educational content. However, I think that there are challenges with the CC License because of issues of compatibility. If only 33% of the content can be remixed, there are serious limitations hampering the Open Education Movement. It doesn't make sense that we cannot currently incorporate Wikipedia content into OCW and Open Content modules.

We need to wrap our heads around the ways that we can move more content into a more fully OPEN movement and not just a "Somewhat-Open" Education Movement. I believe this is most easily solved by expanding the designation of "public domain" - which is not currently a license, but rather a declaration. In abstract, I agree with Wiley's interest to privilege people over content because people are the end, not the content as the end.

However, I can also see the dangers of "privileging people" when those people are selfish and money-mongering, seeking to privilege themselves over the society. I can see that it may be better to privilege the content instead of the people in order that more people have access to the content.

I think everyone agrees that the end goal is to privilege open learning (in whatever form that happens) and to eliminate barriers of cost and inaccessibility. Would that we could inspire those who seek personal gain by copyrighting and fencing off content to join the freedom camp and share resources freely in order that the greatest number of people could benefit.

Perhaps we need more full-time proselyters for and testimony meetings on open education?

OpenEd Wk 6 *** Copyright and Public Domain

I am still wrapping my head around all the details of copyright, but at a cursory glance, it seems like the value of public domain is not fully realized through the Creative Commons license, although the CC license is better than the proprietary copyright system which currently dominates and controls information globally.

If OERs were simply placed the public domain, I think this would be the baseline for OER to make the greatest benefit. I think there are already enough barriers to entry for actually accessing OER for the billions in developing countries who would like to and could actually benefit from OER (technology, language differences, politics, geography).

For this reason, I think that attaching copyrights - in any form - to valuable content will probably kick up the notches of complication which will prevent potential creators and would-be sharers of content from contributing to the growing body of OER (which is still lacking in contribution from grassroots groups doing participatory, tailored ed programs).

At the same time, I am kind of torn on this issue. I recognize that some of the would-be contributors are also hesitant to kill off their copyrights cold-turkey in order to contribute all their goods to the public domain. I faced the challenge to explain copyright and OER when I met with the directors of two international organizations committed to supporting grassroots education, literacy and basic education in developing countries.

Although the leaders of these organizations were interested in the concept of OER, they were reluctant to engage full-board in sharing resources for the OER movement (largely, because they said they had to get approval from their respective Boards of Trustees). These two organizations are run by ethical folks who I have seen are highly committed to supporting the grassroots education movement: World Education, Incorporated (founded in the 1940s to do literacy work in developing countries, and creating, publishing, and sharing great educational tools ever since then) and ProLiteracy Worldwide (the largest and oldest literacy organization in the USA also creating, publishing, and selling literacy services for 50 years ++).

In the end, we (COSL) got conditional approval from both organizations to create pilot projects with their tools (e.g. not removing copyrights, but not launching these tools directly into the public domain either) and, specifically, we could only utilize these tools in Nepal until they gave further approval (we have started on these pilot projects, but we are still limited in funding).

Since it was so difficult to communicate with these leaders who are committed to supporting education in developing countries, I wonder what kinds of sensitization are necessary to bring more people (perhaps less-committed to helping developing countries, but endowed with resources which could benefit those stakeholders) on board for this movement (e.g. Board Members of critical organizations, other potential authors, publishing companies etc.)?

While I laud the altruism that is rife in this OER community, I wonder how many people will resist the movement and fail to laud the success of OER when they perceive that it negatively impacts their own job security?

Perhaps we need to create a tool kit to go with these "sensitization campaigns" in order to help identify why a growing public domain is in everybody's best interest and why it does jeopardize a certain kind of job security, it could also unlock many other kinds of economic possibilities.

OpenEd Wk 5 *** Learning, Using, Sharing the Benefits & Challenges of Open Ed Projects

A striking similarity of all these examples of Open Education Projects is that they keep a strong altruistic flavor. I find this the most refreshing aspect of the Open Education Movement because it is such an unusual and powerful philosophy in our world of gain, greed and selfishness. They are also all large-scale, well-funded initiatives, that have the ability to set a new benchmark for OER and Open Education on a global scale, particularly with regard to higher education.

These projects are differentiated according to the way they host their content and the ways that they target users. I am especially interested in the UNESCO Open Training Platform because of the content areas of which they focus.

However, I believe there is still an overriding accessibility issue with regard to all of these platforms. I think that those who are most ready to benefit and those who have already benefited from educational privilege. I feel that there are gaps which could be addressed collectively by these players (and the OCW Consortium generally) in order that more users from "outside" can benefit by these amazing repositories of resources. I believe this includes "breaking down" the content to make it more useful in "chunks" with ample meta-data to find the resources.

Awareness activities and sensitization on the part of communities is also essential to inform them of existing resources and further training to help them know how to access the tools and how to localize them, share them, and re-use them (and then share them back to the larger group/repository). This component surely takes funding and it is something I am eager to work toward to bridge that gap between those who would like to use theses kind of resources (and whose lives could be saved because of such knowledge) once it is placed in the right hands.

OpenEd Wk 4 *** Background Readings in Open Education

I appreciate these readings on Open Education as a means for setting the foundation for Open Education, OER, Open Content, and the underlying philosophy of this revolutionary movement. An overriding theme of these documents seems to be that: While open education presents many great opportunities, the present and prospective impact of this movement is yet to be understood and, in light of the potential of OER for expanding global learning opportunities, the current research and development funding is alarmingly limited.

I am particularly interested in the implications of this movement for promoting community and economic development among lower-income groups in rural disenfranchised countries. These articles have given me a handle on the movement generally and have triggered interest for further research with regard to appropriate technologies and training tools for lower-literate populations that are politically and geographically hampered.

I particularly liked the OECD article, "Giving Knowledge For Free" because of its comprehensive approach to the issue of Open Education. I appreciate the questions that this paper poses, particularly the issues related to sustainability cost/benefit models for OER initiatives and issues around intellectual property rights.

I am still wrestling with the question of how to create incentives for faculty, staff, change-agents (e.g. youth mobilizers) to share their localized content through open formats. Although I see the benefit of institutional support for broad, sweeping impact, I also recognize the benefit of volunteers and ad-hoc initiatives which are grassroots-grown and -implemented.

What is most interesting to me is the way that Open Education might have influence for expanding access to the right to education in developing countries. I believe that OER holds potential to unlock barriers across many arenas of development - with regard to education generally, but specifically in areas of health, e-commerce, agriculture, environmental conservation, good-governance and democracy-building.

OpenEd Wk 1 *** EDUCATION: A Political & Divine Right to be Legislated for All

Based on my 14 years of work in developing countries and with marginalized people in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the USA, I believe that education is a basic human right. I know that education is intricately linked to empowerment, to consciousness, to participation in community and civic society, and to more fully enjoying the independent free will and agency which is divinely bestowed inside each person on the planet.

I believe education will only improve if it is legislated as a "human right" - with proper penalties for violation of it by countries, parents, employers, or international bodies - and that treating it as a "human right" includes holding governments accountable for providing ACCESS to free high-quality educational opportunity (which is sorely lacking in most countries).

I believe that mandating education through a certain level is important - although I believe it doesn't have to match the existing standards of Grade I, II, II etc. Basic education and vocational education reap rewards far greater than some standardized curricula by which students and teachers seem sifted through barbaric sieves. However, the definition of "literate" is often weak and ineffective (e.g. "One who can sign his/her name" in Pakistan); therefore, I believe there must be a mandate of basic skills encompassed by "Education for All."

My first experience with refugees was in London in 1995, where I met Fabien Kitoy, a political asylee from the Congo. Because he was literate, he was able to read French newspapers about the circumstances in his country, dynamics that shaped his personal well-being, and economic and political events that impacted the safety of his family and his entire nation. Although a refugee in a foreign land, he was equipped with skills that enabled him to access information, to advocate for his rights, and to be a problem-solver for those in dire circumstances at home.

In contrast, during 1997-1999, I worked with illiterate widows in South Africa who were trying to provide for their several children while building lean-to dwellings in a squatter-camp outside East London. Without the ability to read, they were limited in the information accessible to them and were stifled in their opportunities to make a stable income. They could not advocate for themselves nor their families and they were politically, culturally, and socially disenfranchised. I realized that illiteracy is a catalyst for and a canker to dependency.

In Pakistan, I worked on a USAID grant to provide literacy skills to 100,000 illiterate rural villagers in Sindh and Balochistan. Although the program was "successful" in its plan to "make literate" over 115,000 villagers, I am still haunted by the questions asked to me on my final site visit to the literacy centers: "What is to happen next, sister?"

The echo of voices still resonate on this chord: "Before this class, we were as blind people unable to see. And now, the light of literacy has given us SIGHT, for which we are grateful. But, how do we build on this knowledge? We have no books, we have no newspapers, we have no manuals. And, we have no money to buy such things. What can we do to continue on this path?"

Despite desire and ability (albeit rudimentary reading and writing skills), there are still key question for which I seek answers: "How do we empower the rural neo-literates in developing countries to ACCESS quality educational tools, to TAILOR these learning objects to their own needs, and to SHARE them with their families or others in their community?"

OpenEd Wk 13 *** The Future of Open Ed : A Himalayan Case Study

I am particularly intrigued by how the OER Movement may proceed forward through the help of motivated youth and community-focused volunteers. This story of the Youth-Managed Resource Centers (YMRC) in Nepal reflect one dimension of how I view the future of open education.

OpenEd Wk 8 *** Economic Models of Open Education

Could micro-franchised OER learning centers
offer a sustainable model for distance education?

In contrast to macro-education or a ‘one-size-fits-all’ design for rural curricula, learning structures, or pedagogies, perhaps we need to consider how "micro-education" could offer an alternative means whereby educational options may be created and packaged in a tailored manner according to the needs, experiences, and goals of individual students.

In parallel to micro-credit, which offers a small source of capital to an individual with a tailored business plan, micro-education would offer a small source of start-up learning materials to an individual with a tailored education plan.

In this vein, sustainable educational opportunities should provide an opportunity for rural learners to access information and learning tools strategically suited to their personal goals with as narrow/broad scope as desired.

Based on experiences in the Himalayas of Nepal, I am interested to investigate how micro-franchising of community learning centers might be a viable economic model whereby micro-education could facilitate access to educational information for lower-literate and illiterate peoples in remote communities worldwide.

Developing World Context
Nearly one-half the world’s population lives in acute poverty. Illiteracy is associated with extreme poverty and other dilemmas which impede well-being. Despite this, one-fifth of the world’s population is still denied the right of literacy. Worldwide, women are less literate than men with lowest literacy rates in developing countries, particularly Africa and Asia. (UNESCO, 2006) Eliminating various forms of poverty (economic, social, physical, spiritual) is directly linked to improving opportunities for education in the developing world. Effectively disseminating education in developing countries requires a holistic approach with concerted focus on sustainable and context-sensitive programming conducted by locals for locals. (Tomasevski, 2005)

ICT and Literacy
As the economic gap between rich and poor continues to widen, another gap is emerging between the elite with access to information technology and the poor without it. But, could ICTs make a difference to development through distance education? (ID21) In what ways may the potential benefits of open source and open content provide rural and disenfranchised groups with access to knowledge which is broadly available but still inaccessible to those who need it most? In what formats should this be delivered, and in what manner could individuals be primed to utilize this resource? What training and infrastructures must be provided in order for people to benefit on the ground? As Freire aptly concluded, “The fundamental question about education is, ‘What is to know?’” (1973). For most people, especially those in developing countries, ‘to know’ is ‘to do.’ Thus, education is directly linked to action.

Carving the Design
Micro-education provides a broad group of prospective learners with educational opportunities suited to their abilities; in this way, each person becomes an agent to eradicate their own personal poverty through access to information that affords them with realistic options according to their own abilities. This “involves both the processes that allow freedom of actions and decision, and the actual opportunities that people have, given their personal and social circumstances” (Sen, 1998). This allows participants to progress at different levels, according to individual needs, context, and previous preparation. As an outcrop of micro-enterprise, where small entrepreneurs start small businesses with small loans, micro-franchising offers opportunities for small entrepreneurs to build from successful business plans of other small entrepreneurs. Strategically, these rookie entrepreneurs adopt a name, a reputation, a proven model and proven strategies for initializing and maintaining their business endeavor. (BYU, 2006) This new economic development tool is a practical application of Prahalad’s theory that widespread development and poverty alleviation will only occur if “we stop thinking of the poor as victims … and start recognizing them as resilient, creative entrepreneurs and value-conscious consumers” (2005).

Micro-Franchising and Micro-Education
Micro-Franchising of micro-education centers is a viable model for implementing the right to education by addressing several key questions of distance education: How do we replicate success to scale? How do we empower the informal sector? What initial and ongoing training is necessary and for whom do we provide it? How do we design effective tools tailored for the needs of clients? This model of micro-franchising may serve as a catalyst for the privatization and scaling up of UNESCO’s proven model for Community Learning Centers (CLC) which offer integrated distance learning opportunities in developing countries. Refining this model will prepare rural people with strategies to access open educational resources (e.g. OCW), to utilize and tailor open source software, and to develop new learning materials customized for the needs of remote communities. In this way, right to education will be achieved through enhanced knowledge, market access, and expanded freedoms.

In summary, expanding the right of education in developing countries may be bolstered through replication of successful micro-franchising models for distance education in rural micro-education centers. Education is hampered and poverty is exacerbated in rural developing countries because of a paucity of reading materials and limited access to information. This challenge may be addressed through the subsidizing and supporting of rural entrepreneurs to establish integrated educational facilities (e.g. a nexus of context-sensitive training, customized hardware and software, connectivity, and regular technical support) in order to initiate change, generate profits, and improve rural well-being.


UNESCO. (2006) Literacy for Life. EFA Global Monitoring Report. Paris: UNESCO.

ID21. (2003) Missing the Connection? Using ICTs in Education. Insights Education: Development Research Quarterly. Brighton: University of Sussex.

BYU. (2006) What is MicroFranchising? Provo: Center for Economic Self-Reliance, Brigham Young University.

Curtis, L. (1990) Literacy for Social Change. New York: New Readers Press.

Fernandez, B. (2005) Literacy in Francophone Countries, Situations and Concepts. Background paper for EFA Global Monitoring Report 2006.

Fransman, J. (2005) Understanding literacy. Background paper for EFA Global Monitoring Report 2006.

Freire, P. (1973) Education for Critical Consciousness. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company.

Prahalad, C.K. (2005) The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty through Profits. New Jersey: Wharton School Publishing.

Tomasevski, K. (2005) Removing Obstacles in the Way of the Right to Education. Right to Education Primers Number 1. Gothenburg, Sweden: Swedish International Development Association.

Sen, A. (1998) Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.