Cost-Effective, Equitable And Flexible Higher Education 
Through Open And Distance Learning In Bangladesh

Tofazzal ISLAM

This paper examines how this mega-university offers increasing access to cost-effective, equitable and flexible higher education by analyzing data from primary and secondary sources, identifies challenges impacting the continued growth of enrollment in distance education, and outlines opportunities for increasing access to higher education through scaling of distance initiatives. For pedagogic delivery, BOU uses both the conventional face-to-face tutorial system based on print module and electronic learning technologies such as CD, audiovisual cassettes, and radio and TV broadcasts. It revealed that BOU education is flexible, cost-effective, and insensitive to gender and geography and of standard comparable to that of the conventional universities. The reasons behind the success and cost-effectiveness of BOU programs were; Ø BOU has access to any government and non-government infrastructures and resources without any cost or with nominal costs and can engage specialists from any institution for tutoring with a small honorarium; Ø it broadcasts program free of cost through government-owned radio and TV channels; Ø the demand for higher education is very high due to seat limitations only 4-5% of students get the chance to enroll in public universities after their HSC; and Ø the degree/diploma/certificate of BOU is accepted by all as equivalent to those of conventional public universities. Survey of opinions from students of different programs identified the problems in the current system and proposed alternatives to mitigate them by applying some innovative interactive and flexible learning technologies including mobile phone. Considering the success of BOU and to accommodate the huge demand of higher education, conventional universities should also open their doors for ICT-mediated cost-effective and flexing learning to make the vision of knowledge-based ‘digital Bangladesh’ a reality by the year 2021.

KEYWORDS: Mega-University; Flexible Learning; Mobile Learning; E-Learning; Cost-Effectiveness; Digital Bangladesh