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This paper compares the structure and approaches of distance learning in Malaysian and Zimbabwe.

The main objective of my findings is to further understand on the distance learning methods or procedures in both the countries and the various implementation strategies of the distance learning programs in developing countries like Malaysia and Zimbabwe. Basically my search and findings were on the initial origin of the distance learning, its objective, strategies and challenges. At the same time on how distance education has influenced the world population in accordance with the globalization and change in technology and design. Secondly, how it is contributing towards nation building. My findings also analyses the development of distance learning strategies that have been introduced in Malaysian and Zimbabwe. It also discusses the issues and challenges in assuring quality in the distance learning programs for its learners.

Open and distance learning is currently becoming popular and intensifying in the fields of education, and its promising intensity on all education delivery systems has been very accepted with the ICT age whereby information can be attained in just a touch of a button using the internet. Distance education is a process in educational system where all or most of the teaching is performed by someone who is far removed in space or time from the learner, with the result that all or most of the interaction between teachers and learners is through a platform, either electronic or print. Distance education is basically a self - pace learning where it is done continually, immediate supervision of tutors present with their students in lecture rooms or on the same premises, but which, nevertheless, benefit from the planning, guidance and tuition of a tutorial organisation. (Holmberg, 1986, p. 2)

It is understood or general truth that the medium of communication in distance learning is through technology. Further to this with the existence of Distance Learning Centres (DLCs) blended with GDLN it is possible to co-relate development practitioners and experts at an unprotected level - to share their experiences and work hand in hand with one another in order to design and make forth challenging reform and change programs in developing countries. Malaysia is a country with great vision and mission and in the national education; policy is on the move to overcome the minority of illiterate. The most powerful winds of change in education have been propelled by the Open and Distance learning concepts. Thus, Zimbabwe being a developing country as well as a rapidly progressing nation distance learning is becoming part of their growth and on the whole the development of their country.

The foremost reason these two countries have become the subject of comparison in my study is simply because both countries are moving to greater heights with one vision and mission in mind, that is to illuminate illiteracy among the nationals and foster growth in parallel to advancement in the education field. Both Malaysia and Zimbabwe were once under the colonial rule as such the distribution on the equality in learning only initiated in the 1980s. With this in mind though presently the countries have fully grown and achieved maturity in decision-making so the current education policy renders greatly for the economic plan and growth of these countries. Higher institution mushrooming in great speed and opportunities are rendered for all to benefit of being educated In addition to that distance learning is another aspect which is becoming a key factor in catering to the needs of people who are unable to attend structured learning in tertiary level. Distance learning has become highly effective modes in teaching and learning as they are easily customized to the dynamics of educational information and communication technology.

The exceptional progress that the distance learning field is going through is making a vast difference for people around the world its importance in coextensive educational development. Most progressing countries presently apply it as an important agent for developing skilled or intellectual people. With the world population greatly expanding at an expeditious momentum and the requirement to instil education to just about everyone is vital. There are many aspects that have been incorporated in the commencement of distance education and thus resulted in the need to focus on open and distance education. They are as the following:

to educate the world population who live in rural and remote areas which covers about 70% all in all,

The need to further enhance and implement good education in all levels mainly for those pursuing higher education,

the unavailability of traditional educational systems to enhance access for all, or to cater a quality education to those who have entrance, and

the unfairness in representation of the poorer and unjustified groups in the foremost group of education.

Nowadays with the tremendous extravagance in technology it plays a major part in the giving of command where now has taken a new perception from the term correspondence education to distance education. Likely, in North America which has an advanced practice where video conferencing is used vastly in transmitting lectures and instructions. This is known as single-mode universities where the y only offer distance education without requiring attending in-campus lectures. In addition to this another mode which is known as dual-mode universities are universities which caters both face-to-face campus education and distance education under the same premises or management. .


Historical Background

Located strategically at the core-centre of Southeast Asia at one of the world's important inter-sections, Malaysia makes it ways to be crucial to commercial passages from Europe, the Orient, India and China. Being near the equator and blessed with abundance naturally makes it a pleasant destination for people who leave their own country and come here to settle a long time ago about 5,000 years before when, the natives (Orang Asli) of Peninsular Malaysia, settle here. Further to this the Malays, came by and along with them they made it better place by starting off with farming as they are all very skilful farmers. Along with this as time went on that is aroung the first century BC the commercial market was monopolised by the traders from China and India bearing in mind the strategically located of Malaysia. and concurrently these made a very obvious impact on their influential towards the culture, language and social customs of the country. Furthermore the proof of Hindu-Buddhist period can be clearly seen in the Malaysian history as there are multiple temples built by the occupants during those days in Kedah mainly at Bujang Valley and Merbok Estuary. On the other hand Islam started spreading too in the mainland this is partly due to the influence of traders from Arab and India which made the Hindu-Buddhist dynasty to come to a standstill by the 13th century. Simultaneously the era of sultanate branched out with the Islam influence and thus a new beginning for rulers were initiated where by the pioneer was from the Melake Sultanate. It is known that the kingdom was governed by the sultans for many years and this made Islam as the main religion in Malaysia as the majority were them. Islam brought great changes and a lot of hope for the Malays and it structured their lifestyle.

On the contrary the arrival of Europeans in Malaysia brought a noticablechange to the country. In 1511. Melaka was invaded by the Portuguese and this started another revolution. Apparently n the Portuguese were defeated by the Dutch in 1961 and they conquered till the British took over in 1961. The British occupied Melaka in 1824 from the Dutch ruling and hence started a colonial system with a blend of Malay culture in order to give everyone a fair chance but in event of decision making the British will be the superior. It gave a new face of transformation in the sultanate dynasty which was more of a typical Malay way of ruling.                       

Soon after that the Japanese occupied Malaysia from 1941-45, to gain the support and trust from the Malays the British initiated the Malayan Union 1946.This was dissolved in 1948 and the Federation of Malaya aroused in its place. After much persuasion and ceaseless effort by the Malays the Federation received its independence from Britain on 31 August 1957.Along with this in 1963, a united Malaysia was formed with the combination of Sabah, Sarawak and Borneo in which their customs and traditions deflecting the strong influence from the few major components that came to the accomplishment of Malaysia - Malays, Chinese , Indians and Westerners.

It is an undeniable fact that Malaysia is a admirable for her growth, with solid goals and pointed perseverance, can achieve commendable advancement in the education field in a short period of time. From the findings it states that, the literacy percentage aquired by Malaysians is way beyond expectation and something that is truly commendable and looked up to by nation and people all around the world and in approaching the new twentieth century whereby the vision and mission set by the previous Prime Minister is coming into reality in accordance with the Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad held before the people his "Vision 2020" for all fields of governmental activity, including education. The utmost key factors are to create an association of educators fully qualified to enhance the country into a holistic place of study to transform it into a "regional education hub." The country's mission is to "to create knowledge workers who will become an important national resort with the capability not only to digest and become proficient with the new and arising technologies but also to improve efficiency." The aim is to put Malaysian students "in equivalence with high achievers from universities all around the world from the well renowned universities of the world." The education structure in Malaysia emanates positive, hopeful vibrations to all level of achievers who are willing to put their best foot forward in education


Figure: 1 Map Of Malaysia

Malaysia comprises of the Malay Peninsula or West Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak (East Malaysia) in the northwestern coastal area of the island of Borneo, Malaysia encloses an area of 127,581 square miles. These two parts are distant by 400 miles of the South China Sea. West Malaysia comprises an area of about 50,806 square miles. Sabah and Sarawak hold the larger part of the area, but they have only 21 percent of the population. Peninsular Malaya stretches on the north right to the Thailand border while Sabah and Sarawak are enveloped by the South China in the west and by Indonesia's Kalimantan in the east and the south.


Malaysia has a population of approximately 26m people where a majority of them live in peninsular Malaysia, mainly in the Klang Valley, whereas about 5m as the Orang Asli, meaning "original people", they number 60,000 in the peninsula but over half the population of Sabah and Sarawak. The term bumiputra, is often used to denote them which give them their status as the indigenous peoples of the Malay archipelago.

The official religion of the country is Islam , nevertheless other religions are accepted with a open mind. They are among others Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Christians and Sikhs, and a portion of the indigenous tribes. people occupy the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak.

It is a prominent fact in here that the Chinese and Indian minorities have always been identified, somehow expanded substantially due to mining and rubber cultivation in the 19th and 20th centuries. Ethnic Chinese comprise about 25% of the population and Indians stand at 10%, both cultures has tremendous influence in taste and culture. Besides this, there are also indigenous peoples contributing a small area of the population.


As for the languages Malay and English has coherently become the official languages at the same time a host of Chinese languages - chiefly Hokkein, Hakka, Mandarin and Cantonese - are usual, together with Indian languages, precisely Tamil. English is very accepted and practiced where a great number of formal functions and speeches are conducted in English. Apart from this there are also several indigenous languages In east Malaysia, where Iban and Kadazan are had become the major communicating language.


Malaysia is rich and condensed with abundance wealth in it. First and foremost tin mining made the Western to focus on the Malay states together with land suitable for rubber cultivation. Today Malaysia exports of rubber from Malaysia has slowed down but on the other hand tin mining has totally been extracted from the industry.

Apart from this Malaysia's proven reserves of oil stand at 4.2bn barrels. Natural gas reserves are estimated at 87trn cu ft of gas. Both are located almost entirely offshore. In recent years, deepwater reserves have been located off the coasts of Sabah and Sarawak.

According to statistics Malaysia stands tall as one of the prime producers for palm oil, further to this its increasing popularity for use in food and fuel enhances well for the future of the industry. Most lands are reserved land due to environmental concerns, Malaysian plantations cultivate cocoa, timber, pepper, pineapple and sugar cane, while rice paddies dot the northern reaches of peninsular Malaysia. Copper, iron ore and bauxite are also present in Malaysia, though not in sufficient quantities to spur the development of large industries.


On the whole in Malaysia the key factor for progress according to the government is education because only this can lead to a successful nation with a maximum output to developing and an excellent knowledge-based economy. The education system reflects the country's differences with schools for Malay, Indian and Chinese students. Basically the government schools are taught in Malay, while other languages may be used in private schools. In addition in 2005, the government stated that Chinese and Tamil can also be chosen to be done as foreign language courses.

Table 1: Qualifications available in Malaysia (adapted from UNESCO, 2001)





Ujian Peneliaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR)


Primary School

6 years

Penilaian Menengah Rendah (PMR)


Lower Secondary School

3 years

Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia


Technical/Upper Secondary School

2 years

Sijil Tinggi Agama Malaysia

Post Secondary

Religious education

Secondary religious school

2 years

Sijil Tinggi Pelajaran Malaysia

Post Secondary

Pre-university inst.

1-1.5 years





Private Colleges,

Professional bodies

3 mths to

1-2 years




Private Colleges/TNE

1-3 years

Teaching Diploma



Teacher Training


3 years

Bachelor Degree + Hons


"A" Level Matriculation/Diploma,IB,

SAM/watee/HSC, Foundation Programme



3-4 years

Postgraduate Diploma& Graduate Diploma


Bachelor's Degree/equivalent


1-2 years

Master's Degree


Bachelor's Degree/equivalent


1-2 years

Doctor's Degree


Higher level Master's Degree


3-4 years

Higher Doctor's Degree


Outstanding contribution

to knowledge


3-4 years



From my readings and findings I have concluded that open and distance learning pertains hassle -free learning process in which the learner is in control of his or her own learning and progress. Besides removing barricades and class attendance, it works on a system where the learner becomes the core matter. It is clearly seen that the reason open and distance education in Malaysia has gained success is because of the credibility and rights for higher education opportunities among working adults and full-time university students. Initially when USM's existence opened a door of opportunities for part-time learners as it pioneered distance education in the country in 1971.From that time onwards the demand for this pilot project has started to boom

Now after 39 year, the involvement in distance learning has advanced and vastly spread to all parts of the nation in Malaysia. In order to create a well balanced economy structure, the distance learning programs or modules are made equivalent as those offered at the formally at the public universities.

At present, after 39 years, involvement in distance learning has expanded and its mushroomed greatly Malaysia. In order to up stand the need of a diversify nation which is balanced the programs are formulated in accordingly where it is almost similar to the one offered in the public university education system. Somehow, it is customized to the needs of the home-based learner.

Thereafter in 1999, a new private university, Open University Malaysia (OUM), was opened to manage the open and distance learning programs of all 11 local public universities in the country. This brought great changes to the education system in Malaysia where more working - adults were directly involve in creating a developed nation with dignified qualification of their choice. Needless to say from then on the number of graduating students increased tremendously and indirectly it boosted the growth of professionalism in Malaysia (Dhanarajan, 1990).

The following is the general methodology for learning:

Table 2: General Distance Learning Methods








Through my findings it can be said that in Malaysia ODL opens a gate of hope to a

university education. On the whole it gives opportunity to working adults a platform to re connect them in education in order to upgrade their professionalism in their respective industry whilst juggling professional, familial and social responsibilities. No doubt distance learning is indeed a great milestone for all adults as its borderless, equitable and flexible. (Ehlers and Pawlowski, 2006). As from what i have understood though distance learning seem to be a self paced learning among adults but the foremost importance is emphasised in the quality and structure of learning. Firstly adequate preparation is offered to learners by the university; they are briefed and exposed to the various components of studies and features before they proceed with their modules.

Besides this all learners are equipped with learning materials which are compact and enriched with the latest and updated version for each module of study. As for tutors the universities particularly select only the most capable and potential candidate as tutors. On top of that assessment questions for distance learning students are carefully done and moderated by experts in their respective fields and channelled to the question bank before being printed for exams and assignments. In addition the universities also render support services for students who are passive and unable to tag along with the system. They will identify them and guide them through to obtain self-discipline and independence in learning.

Further to this with the current technology available the universities guarantees availability to the online system to browse and update materials at all times without fail. The system is monitored closely for breakdowns and failure. Learners are always kept abreast with the information pertaining their course at all time of the day. Apart from this the whole team which comprises of staff and tutors are always opened to changes. They are given all opportunity to develop and learn current demand in order to floe their knowledge to the learners who will be liaising with them for all matters. The staff and tutors in the universities always ensure learners are given a conducive teaching and learning environment.


Figure 2: Zimbabwe National Flag


Zimbabwe, a country surrounded by the land of other countries and having no sea coast in south-central Africa, is slightly smaller than California. It is bordered by Botswana on the west, Zambia on the north, Mozambique on the east, and South Africa on the south.

Through history it is believed that the remains of early humans, dating back 500,000 years, was detected in Zimbabwe. The land's earliest settlers, the Khoisan, date back to 200 B.C. Along with that came the Bantu domination, the Shona people ruled, followed by the Nguni and Zulu peoples. In flow with that in the mid-19th century the descendants of the Nguni and Zulu, the Ndebele, had established a powerful warrior kingdom.

Further to this development the first British explorers, colonists, and missionaries arrived in the 1850s, and the enormous advent of foreigners led to the organization of the territory Rhodesia, named after Cecil Rhodes of the British South Africa Company. In 1923, European occupants voted to become the self-governing British colony of Southern Rhodesia. After a brief federation with Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and Nyasaland (now Malawi) in the post-World War II period, Southern Rhodesia (also known as Rhodesia) chose to maintain a group when its two partners voted for independence in 1963.


Zimbabwe had a population of 6 million when it got its independence in 1980. At that time there was only one formal university with 1500 students where majority of them were whites.

Currently the population stand at 14 million with a tremendous increase in primary and secondary schools as well as tertiary educational institutions. So far to date there are six state formal universities and one Open University in Zimbabwe.

Table 4: Map of Zimbabwe

From my findings the first private Zimbabwe Distance Education College was established in 1980 with a vision to increase educational access to Zimbabweans. It was created in south Africa after apartheid as Keith Harry and Hillary Parraton state that "the end of apartheid illuminated the need for South African education to catch up with the outside world in its institutions as well as its philosophy

It is clearly stated in the from the research papers that I've gone through that the The Zimbabwe University Without Walls is the first Indigenous Private University initiative and this has made a turning key point in the Open and Distance learning concepts in Zimbabwe.

Basically in Zimbabwe the blacks were had limited opportunities in the formal education and thus the formal education system created a bottleneck for the blacks in early stages. As such the Zimbabwe government took a bold move where local communities were given the basic human right for education and it is projected to broaden entry to primary and secondary education within the frame-work of combining and a multi-racial system of education.

Thus through the transition of time and effort the windows for change has taken place where The International Council for Open and Distance Education and the Commonwealth of learning have continued to spearhead and support Distance Education Institutions where it stresses the need to increase access to education. It is believed that The University without Walls works on a concept where distance and open learning can become highly effective modes of teaching and learning as they are easily adaptable to the dynamics of education information and communication technology. Therefore after all these changes and restructuring candidates seeking places at the University Of Zimbabwe has been increasing. This demand for places was not matched with supply (Chivore 1995)

The table 4 below gives a clear view on how the increase in candidates for universities has outshined the supply

Table 4: First Year student Registration of University of Zimbabwe

1990 - 1994







No. of students who








No. of students








No. Of students who

Had qualified but were

Not registered







Source: Ministry of Higher Education, Statistics Unit

In connection with the above table from the statistics shown it was concluded that the demand for university education came from two groups of people they are mature students and college students on the whole.

my support materials it is concluded that annually there are more than 10000 students graduating from colleges but unfortunately they are not given or created an opportunity to further their studies to achieve their goals and aims in life, thus the distance education at the University of Zimbabwe gives them a platform of confidence to further enhance the feasibility in education in general.


Basically the foremost reasons of the distance learning strategies in Zimbabwe are quite similar to the Malaysian mode of learners as well. Through the distance learning it is hoped that the country will be nurtured to a self - efficient and enriched nation blended with high quality tertiary education along with creating an atmosphere of warm and friendliness to the staff and learners of the academic community.

With the lack of essential academic tools due to the remote and political reasons, University College of Distance Education provides support services to the main University of Zimbabwe library and labotaries for practical work. Other than this the course offered in Zimbabwe Open University are far much cheaper and affordable by working adults. The programmes are structured on an on-going process whereby the modules are reviewed according to the current needs and revised by experts regularly. On top of this research and development is also taking place in the search for new methodologies in order to upgrade the current system.

Besides the Distance learning in Zimbabwe adopts flexibility which allows diverse entry qualifications and flexible exit and re-entry arrangements. They too have the credibility to hire highly dedicated leadership and staff in order for a great flow of learning for the learning in the remote areas.

There are many factors that will bring our a change to the implementation of distance learning in Zimbabwe. The ulterior motive of all these challenges faced here is to miscalculate a nation who are academically inclined and steadfastly move towards the excellence in lifelong learning adaptation among the nationals.

Being a nation of where development is still making a progress despite the limitations in various aspects like resources, technologies and manpower, the distance education in Zimbabwe is moving towards greater heights where the need for university education is growing day by day in great figure. In order to meet and complete the nationalist demand in the education field, the Zimbabwe University is making great efforts to open new doors of opportunities and experiences for its people.



6.1.1 GOALS

Zimbabwe and Malaysia has vast difference in many aspects but needless to say that both are considered countries less developed in the global map. On contrary, Malaysia is progressing on the fast mode especially in the education field and can be considered as one of the most progressive country in the Southeast Asia Region. As for Zimbabwe it has taken a long term-term policy development where by progress is undertaken in a slower pace. Both countries hold to the believe that education is the key to the growth of a country's economy where the foremost aim is to bring illiteracy to zero percent amongst its nation.


Needless to say obvious improvements in the education system have brought great embankments in the field where distance learning has a become a component in the curricular of the National Education Policy, whereas in Zimbabwe awakening has also taken place on the importance of education but due to mainly political instability and lack of professionalism in the field its accelerating is undertaken in a slower mode. Besides this financial constrain is also a major problems faced by the academician there to implement this distance learning to the optimum.


As in Malaysia the policy of Education Act has set aside certain percentage of fund for the

development of and enhancements of the higher learning institution by the ruling party. Thus these funds are channelled through the Ministry to be generated into the institutions equally and genuinely. Due to this aspect the higher learning institutions are able to conduct their programs successfully. In the case of Zimbabwe, financial support has become the major defect in the education field. The government in force is unable to meet the demand in generating more fund for education as they face great difficulties in implementing strategies as they lack in resources as well as professionalism in handling matters concerning funds. It further dampens the country's development.


Besides this, both countries live by great aspirations to further enhance the opportunity of distance learning for greater heights for the sake of creating an academically inclined nation in order to boost the country's social-economy. Malaysia has made available multi level facilities to its learners to acquire maximum output from the course modules with the blend of the latest technology (ICT).Compared to Zimbabwe where many of its learners are not IT savvy. Due to the current economic situation they are unable to acquire skills on computer literacy, thus become handicapped on its usage. Because of this the learners face great difficulties the programs.


Together with this the language barrier has also become one aspect of worry among learners in Zimbabwe, though they were also under the colonialism in the past, English has not been stressed in many of the remote local schools. This becomes a great barrier to the learners and thus it demotivates them even further to learn. In Malaysia somehow English has all the time been the second most important language after the national language as Malaysia was also once under the colonoliasim in the past.


Another aspect that differs Malaysia to Zimbabwe is that lack of electrical power and skilled human resources so learners are unable to keep with the current development of education as electricity is not vastly available in the remote rural areas of the country. In this aspect, Malaysia has centralised learning system where every populated area is equipped with a learning centre which gives learners a easier access to course materials. Malaysia adapts a curriculim where computer literacy is exposed to its learner from the grass root levels.


Apart from this, in Zimbabwe the learners face problems in attaining course materials. A worrying factor is that local materials on tutorials are unavailable as they are lack in local expertise to enhance the learning mode. This mainly occurs especially when those who are trained leave for better working opportunities elsewhere. As in Malaysia the local institution has formulated a group of expertise who work on course materials all the time, as they keep upgrading and injecting new information regularly. Even if the experts leave for a greener side it still has a majority of professionals who prefer to work in the home country as opportunities are good within also. In Zimbabwe since they lack in manpower the modules are prepared through teamwork and not individuals, due to this many unsatisfactory issues come about from people who contribute for the compilation of material as it's not easy to put all these expertise together to create the modules.


In reference to this, another conclusion that could be made through my study is that in adapting the best mode of study for these two countries. In my opinion I believe that the most appropriate for Zimbabwe will be the single mode option in distance learning as it is more cost effective where even during financial constrain there would be something would keep the institution and sudden moving. As for Malaysia we are on higher and more flexible road on this, Malaysia adopts the single and dual mode in learning here. The infrastructure and support systems which are always up to date gives it a smooth and easy flow on the implementation of distance learning here. On top of that for financial assistance there are many government institution and private bodies rendering or offering partial or full loans and scholarships for the learners.

Distance learning seems to emerge to a great extent in the two countries. It has gained momentum and has started making a difference in the global education field. As for Zimbabwe in spite of the limitations being experienced in term of resources and new technologies. Distance learning is becoming a key note in the government's policy to make its nation equipped with university education.

This flexibility of distance education has given many men and women a "second chance" to obtain higher education because they had not been able to avail themselves of such studies earlier in their live. It has opened a new door to everyone's dream and aspiration with the theme in mind that knowledge is power.