ISLAMABAD - The 27th Annual Conference of Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) commenced on Wednesday at the Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) to work for the strengthening of Open Distance Learning Systems to deal with the problems of education in the divergent Asia effectively.

The two-day conference themed "Leveraging the Power of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) for Building a Divergent Asia - Today's Solutions and Tomorrow's Vision" is being attended by nearly 200 delegates from home and abroad. The countries being represented at the conference included U.K. China, Japan, India, Malaysia, Iran, Bangladesh, Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Australia and Canada.

To meet the needs of education for both developed and developing countries is a concurrent great challenge and Open Distance Learning (ODL) System is getting popular worldwide due to its cost effectiveness, flexibility and with no restriction of age or the workplace, said President AAOU Professor Dr. Ho Sinn Chye.

Open Distance Learning mode of education can be strengthened by integrating the innovative technologies and all varieties of the available media to reach its students in an effective manner in the outreach/remote areas, he added.

The AIOU got the chance to arrange the conference after 24 years that would provide a platform for ODL and other experts to share their expertise on the issues relating to the problems of illiteracy, making education accessible to all, use of technology, etc. to meet the current and future challenges in the field of education, he maintained.

Minister of State for Education, Training and Standards in Higher Education Engr. Muhammad Baleegh-ur-Rehman while inaugurating the conference underlined the importance of distance learning system, which he said could help to achieve the UN millennium development goals in the education sector.  

The minister called for setting up Pakistan-chapter of AAOU in collaboration with AIOU and Higher Education Commission. He also proposed for establishment of a 'Research Centre of Excellence' in AIOU for promoting technology-based education.

Baleegh-ur-Rehman asserting the importance of distance-learning system of education, said that the efficiency of the system is evident from the fact that only in about forty years more than sixty open universities have been established in the world. 'The distance learning programmes enable the students to update their qualification without leaving their homes or workplaces'.

The AIOU has extended nation-wide excess to education even in the remote area of the country, he said adding the commonwealth of learning has validated the high standard of methodologies of open distance learning mode of education employed by the university.

Dr. Nazir Ahmed Sangi informed the guest speakers that the AIOU being the 2nd open university of the world has guided and supported by many of open universities of the Asia.

Vis Naidoo, Vice President Common Wealth of Learning also attended the opening ceremony. He was of the view that higher education makes major contributions to both the physical and social capital leading to sustainable development and to ensure higher education institutions play this role; they must focus on the people that constitute the essence of the two broad forms of capital. Professor Dr. Wong Tat Meng, Former Vice Chancellor of Wawasan Open University, Penang, Malaysia was conferred upon meritorious services award on the occasion for his outstanding contribution to the development of distance learning system.