OPEN AND DISTANCE EDUCATION IN PRIMARY EDUCATION: THE CASE OF CYPRUS C. Stefanou1, D. Vlachopoulos2 1Open University of Cyprus (CYPRUS) 2European University of Cyprus (CYPRUS) Introduction • • • • • Distance Education (DE) is a scientific field with expanding applications in all levels of education. Its origins are noted in the early 20th century and in the provision of distance education to school-aged children across vast geographical areas . Nowadays, is widely applied in primary education in developing and developed countries, to overcome the difficulties or shortcomings of the traditional educational system . Primary education in Cyprus has gradually incorporated elements of Open and Distance Education’s (ODE) philosophy and methodology into the Curriculum, in a broader effort for the Cyprus educational system to harmonize with the European Education process. The purpose of this paper is to describe the stages of incorporation of ODE into the primary education of Cyprus, the opportunities and the constraints arising. Methodology • Qualitative research – Literature review • Focus on the exploration and study of: (a) official documents of the European Union (EU) and the Ministry of Education and Culture of Cyprus (MOEC), (b) research data from comparative studies of organizations operating under the auspices of the EU, (c) relevant articles written by independent researchers. • Better understanding of the historical background, the theoretical framework and current trends of the ODE at international, European and national level. ODE in primary education internationally • • • • ODE was originally applied autonomous, for the students in remote areas of Australia and Canada, in order to complete their education at the elementary school, while being at their place of residence . Nowadays, the adoption of complementary DE from conventional schools, to enhance or enrich the existing curriculum , is a frequent phenomenon. Autonomous and complementary DE is applied equally in: Developing countries: as an alternative to formal education for 67 million children being left illiterate . Developed countries: for children who cannot attend classes in conventional schools or for the enrichment of traditional basic education . In the European continent, ODE in primary education is mainly complementary, while the guidelines set by the European Union (EU) play an active role in the educational policy of member-states , . ODE in primary education in Cyprus • • • • until 1990: the concept of DE was unknown for the educational system in Cyprus. 1990: installation of computers in schools by the MOEC , , and training courses for teachers in ICT, organized by the Pedagogical Institute of Cyprus . 2000: the first evidence for the orientation of primary education towards DE, after the European Council in Lisbon and the inauguration of “E-learning: Designing tomorrow’s education” protocol. “Evagoras”: a formal training policy designed for primary education for the years 2000-2005: + great emphasis on equipping schools with hardware + teachers’ training, sponsored by the EU + Informatics Platform for primary education + Information Consulting group - optional use of ICT - failure for on-time inclusion of ICT in the Curriculum - lack of provision for maintenance or upgrade of the technological equipment ,  ODE in primary education in Cyprus • • • 2006: after the recommendation of the European Parliament and the European Council, digital literacy emerged as one of the key components for promoting LLL , . i-2010 Strategic Framework “A European Information Society for growth and employment”: ICT as the most powerful means for educating the future citizens . Cypriot educational system follows European trends: “Evagoras II Action Plan” (2005) “Introduction of Informatics in Primary Education” manual  Partial reconstruction of Primary Education Curriculum (2006) and incorporation of specific ICT goals and activities, as tools to be used within the learning process of other school subjects  Creation of Cyprus Strategic Development Plan 20072013  ODE in primary education in Cyprus • From 2007 onwards: €40.000.000 were spent to extend the integration of ICT in primary education (improvement of infrastructure) the training of teachers from the Pedagogical Institute was systematized the acquisition of educational software suitable for primary education helped to promote the use of computer multimedia  the first Learning Management System, the educational platform DIA.S.(Diadiktiako Scholio) was created, as a result of MOEC’s initiative , . within the wider context of Educational Reform, which began in the 2011-2012 academic year, digital literacy is now considered to be a key skill for the preparation of a sustainable society within the 21st century . Examples of the primary DE application in Cyprus • ICT in primary education in Cyprus was used exclusively as a tool for teaching and learning other school subjects. • The last decade additional DE applications, related to the participation of schools in electronic partnerships, have appeared and applied: Comenius LLL program of EU E-twinning action of EU “Odysseas”: a school networking program between Cyprus and Greece (interactive teleconference in virtual classrooms)  “Ikade”: communication of Greek children from all over the world via CENTRA platform  Opportunities of ODE in primary education • Surveys confirm the presence of a range of benefits regarding the integration of ICT in primary education , , : the student at the center of the learning process strengthening of cognitive processing promotion of autonomy and innovation fostering of critical thinking, teamwork and creativity  maximizing the time of pupil participation, due to the quick access to the knowledge and the interactive possibilities offered by ICT ensuring equal opportunities building a richer learning experience  Constraints of ODE in primary education • • The actual effect of ICT integration in primary education is not as expected : deviation between the use, by the students, of ICT at school and at home ,  disadvantaged, on digital literacy, groups of children (disabled, sick or with learning difficulties)  unprepared for new technologies teachers  limited technical and advisory support of schools  absence of clearly stated objectives and strategies, for integrating the tools of technology in the learning process  minimal financial support, by the public sector, for the renewal or replacement of technology equipment or for the teacher’s training  The promotion of DE via the institutionalization of e-learning , remains a long term goal for most educational systems in Europe , , . Conclusions • • • The ODE: is a fast growing field with applications in all levels of education covers a wide range from the simple integration of ICT in face-to-face teaching to complete e-learning teaching and learning models  offers its participants the necessary knowledge and skills to survive and grow in the Knowledge Society , . In primary education in Europe, and especially in Cyprus: voluntary incorporation of the ODE as a complementing element to conventional teaching emphasis to the technological equipment of primary schools rather that to its functional integration in the curriculum. As Bates stated, the good teaching outweighs the technological shortage, but the technology can not save bad teaching . References  Vasala, P. (2005). Εξ Αποστάσεως Σχολική Εκπαίδευση. In: Α. Lionarakis (Εd.) Ανοικτή και εξ Αποστάσεως Εκπαίδευση. Παιδαγωγικές και Τεχνολογικές Εφαρμογές (pp. 53-80). Patra, Greece: Hellenic Open University.  Lionarakis, Α. (2011). 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