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The status of the OUHK as a major player in the field of open and distance education was well recognized with the hosting of an international conference at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from 18 to 21 February this year. The conference -- a biennial global event of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) -- was officially opened by the Secretary for Education and Manpower Prof. Arthur Li. The 21st World Conference on Open Learning and Distance Education was the first world conference of the ICDE held in East Asia since the organization's establishment in 1938.
Officiating at the opening ceremony, Prof. Li said lifelong learning is an essential tool to help graduates and working adults cope with the new challenges of a knowledge-based economy.
'A forerunner in lifelong and distance learning for our workforce is, of course, the Open University of Hong Kong. By opening its programmes to all adults and adopting a flexible distance learning mode, the University has made an invaluable contribution to the training and continuous upgrading of our workforce, enabling them to adapt to rapid changes in the global market. I am sure the 27,000 graduates from the University can bear testimony to this,' he said.
He further cited the international awards that the OUHK had received over the past few years and commended the University for having firmly established itself as one of the leading institutions in the region within a decade of its establishment.
OUHK Council Chairman Dr Philip Wu said efforts made by organizations such as the ICDE had resulted in large strides in cross-cultural communication and international cooperation, as well as more efficient and cost-effective development of courses, people, resources and research for many institutions and organizations in different parts of the world.
Prof. Tam Sheung-wai, OUHK Emeritus President and Chairman of the conference organizing committee, said they had tried to provide a programme which covered a wide range of topics including not only research, pedagogy and technology, but also policy-making, skills development, quality assurance and student support.
Entitled 'Lifelong Learning in the Networked World', the conference featured five keynote addresses by distinguished leaders in open and distance education. They were Sir John Daniel, the then Assistant Director-General for Education of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Prof. Wei Yu, former Vice-Minister of the Chinese Ministry of Education and current Vice-President of the China Association for Science and Technology, Prof. Brenda Gourley, Vice-Chancellor of the United Kingdom Open University (UKOU), Prof. Ian Macdonald, President Emeritus of York University, and educational technology expert Prof. Tony Bates.
There were also a special plenary panel discussion, seven expert panels, nine special sessions and a pre-conference workshop besides 65 oral and poster sessions. A book of abstracts and a CD-ROM containing the full papers of the presenters were also produced.
Two ICDE Institutional Prizes of Excellence were awarded this year, one to Athabasca University in Canada and another to the University of Maryland University College (UMUC) in the USA. The Prize for Lifelong Contribution went to Prof. David Sewart of the UKOU.
More than 140 delegates from the mainland and 40 from other developing countries received registration fee awards thanks to generous donations from local philanthropists and charitable organizations. Other sponsors included Cathay Pacific Airways, Dragonair, the British Council, UNESCO and a number of international agencies.
The ICDE was founded to encourage international cooperation in distance education and open learning. With its headquarters in Oslo, Norway, the ICDE has member institutions from 145 countries. The ICDE is officially recognized by the United Nations as the global non-governmental organization responsible for the field.
Sponsors towards the 21st ICDE World Conference