WikiCaribbean/Trinidad and Tobago/Open and Distance Learning for the Education Sector Policy Framework

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Trinidad and Tobago has made a commitment to become a developed country within the next decade (by the year 2020). This commitment has come at a time when countries are reducing barriers among themselves to facilitate their social and economic development. This trend is integrating national economies into the international economy through greater trade, foreign direct investment, capital flows, migration, and the spread of technology. In addition, the traditional factors of land, labour and capital have given way to new and more intangible factors such as knowledge, collaboration, process-engagement, and time-quality potential. These factors are largely based on the resourcefulness of a country’s human capital, which is acquired only through education and training. As such, Trinidad and Tobago, as a small developing nation, has to move with some urgency to improve its human capital through the creation of a relevant education system. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago in its 2005 Draft National Strategic Plan has in fact made its intentions clear by stating that “… Our education system is at the heart and soul of the development of our intellectual capabilities and is therefore the pivot to achieving our developed nation status.” The role for Distance Education is articulated in the vision for creating an Innovative People - “distance education to enrich on-site instruction at all education levels for information sharing and increasing dissemination both locally and regionally.”


Elements of Open and Distance Learning (ODL) have enjoyed a long tradition in Trinidad and Tobago, whether in the form of external examination and certification arrangements (e.g. the Cambridge General Certificate of Education [GCE], at the ordinary and advanced secondary levels) or the offer of joint degrees through foreign and local partnerships (e.g. Masters in Business Administration, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland). Adult learners, in particular, have participated in distance education for some time via correspondence programmes with external providers. Many of these programmes have catered to the needs of adult learners by placing limited emphasis on admission requirements and providing an unlimited timeframe for programme completion. Eventually, private education providers began operating locally. Curricula, particularly in the business and professional fields, were provided by international education partners such as professional associations e.g. the Association for Certified Chartered Accountants, (ACCA), which certified practitioners according to accepted standards worldwide.

In 1983, the University of the West Indies entered the field of distance education by offering courses via an audio teleconferencing system, mainly to the non-campus territories. This was called the University of the West Indies Distance Teaching Experiment (UWIDITE), later the University of the West Indies Distance Education Centre (UWIDEC) and eventually, UWI Open Campus. At present, apart from the Distance Education offerings of the Open Campus, there are a range of relationships with private external education providers which fall mainly in the following categories of the General Agreement on the Trade in Services (GATS) definition for the four modes of trade in services: Mode 1 – Cross-border Supply – which does not require the consumer or the service provider to physically move. Examples include distance education, e-learning and virtual universities. Mode 3 – Commercial Presence - where a service provider establishes a commercial facility in another country to provide a service. Examples include local branch or satellite campuses, twinning partnerships and franchising arrangements with local institutions. A significant driver behind this development has been an escalating demand for learning opportunities not readily available at public institutions. However, it has been globalization through, changes in the world of work and the widespread use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) which has fueled this trade in educational services across borders. The concern for Trinidad and Tobago, in light of this, has been that the changes in the local educational landscape are largely market driven, which has led to an unstructured Open and Distance Learning (ODL) sector which is not align to national priorities. National development goals require an ODL system that brings flexible to the existing education system to support continuous and timely changes in methodologies and practices for greater quality outputs. As such, some of the drivers identified for an ODL policy framework are: • New global competitive requirements • The influence of Scientific, Technological and Innovative (STI) developments • The impact of education as a services industry and the cost and quality factors associated with Cross-border Education • The push for inclusion of all learners in the education system e.g. learners in non-traditional occupations, persons wishing to pursue non-traditional studies; second chance learners • The acknowledgement of multiple intelligences of persons and the need to cater for a diversity of learning styles.


This document provides guidelines for establishing and operating an ODL system in Trinidad and Tobago. The scope of the Policy Framework covers: • All sub-sectors of the education and training system (e.g. Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE), Primary Education, Secondary Education , Tertiary Education, Professional Development) • All Learning stakeholders (e.g. traditional and no-traditional learners, educators, administrators, researchers, employers, learning technology providers, parents, not-for-profit organizations, industry) • Diverse learning environments (e.g. classroom based, home, community, workplace, virtual) • A range of learning delivery modes (e.g., electronic, internet, print, blended) • A variety of information purposes ( e.g. knowledge and skills acquisition, learning delivery, research and innovation, content development, knowledge management)



Vision and Mission


Policies to Support ODL in the Education Sector

Learner Support

Curriculum Design and Courseware

ICT Infrastructure

Management and Administration

Quality Assurance

Monitoring, Evaluation and Assessment

Professional Development


  • Dr. Nancy George - COL Consultant
  • Dr. Willie Clarke-Okah - COL Consultant
  • Karen Rosemin - Director, Distance Learning Secretariat, Ministry of Science Technology & Tertiary Education
  • Lystra Sampson-Ovid, Programme Director, Distance Education Unit, Ministry of Education