UNESCO Beijing and the Open University of China (OUC) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to affirm their commitment to jointly collaborate and promote Open and Distance Learning in China and at the regional and international level.
The signing of the MOU was a significant step towards formalizing the cooperation that existed over the years between the two institutions. The MOU provides the strategic framework for cooperation and further reinforces the on-going UNESCO Beijing partnership with the China Open University in Open and Distance learning, quality assurance in distance learning, MOOCs, OER, and ICTs in Education. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of distance and on-line learning platforms, this MOU is expected to focus on the development of joint activities targeted at building capacity, promoting south-south cooperation, providing technical support, and promoting best practices in quality open and distance education and lifelong learning.
Before the signing ceremony of the MOU, Dr. Marielza Oliveira, Director of UNESCO Beijing Office, and Dr. Jing Degang, President of OUC and senior management staff described the strategic areas of cooperation between the two institutions. Mr. Zhou Jiagui, Deputy Secretary-General of the Chinese National Commission for UNESCO conveyed how relevant is to strengthen cooperation on Open and Distance Learning.
Dr. Oliveira highlighted at the signing ceremony that UNESCO is pleased to tap into the experience of the University in Open and Distance Learning (ODL), and on how this partnership can contribute to advance ODL in countries that need support.
UNESCO is the only UN agency with a mandate in higher education. As such, it contributes to develop evidence-based higher education policies and strategic frameworks and plans, which aligns with target 4.3 of Sustainable Development Goal 4 to “by 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university.” The core principles of SDG4 in ensuring inclusive, equitable and quality lifelong learning for all shall be embraced in the execution of the MOU.
The MOU captured core themes such as Open and Distance learning, recognition of qualifications in higher education, quality assurance in higher education, UNESCO Chairs in Distance Education, UNITWIN, SDG4 and implications for higher education, ICTs and lifelong learning aligned with the core mandate and technical capacity of the two institutions to jointly provide technical support to institutions in need.
The MOU further underpins the opportunity for increased cooperation between the two institutions to collectively mobilize expertise, resources and experiences to complement, enrich and transform distance education through innovative approaches and initiatives at the regional and global levels.