Founded in 1987 by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Vancouver, Canada, The Commonwealth of Learning has a mandate to encourage the development and sharing of open learning/distance education knowledge, resources and technologies for learners throughout the Commonwealth and other countries. Responding to needs expressed by the Commonwealth's 54 member governments, it engages in both in-country and regional project work, as well as fee-for-service consulting for international agencies and national governments. Headquartered in Vancouver, The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is the only intergovernmental organisation solely concerned with the promotion and development of distance education and open learning. COL is helping to increase the capacities of developing nations to meet the demands for improved access to quality education and training.


In part due to the efforts of COL and its Commonwealth-wide network over the past ten years; distance education is now a part of the mainstream of education and training. It enables students to learn at the location, time and pace of their choice, for less money and with improved results. COL's goals include maximising the transfer of information, ideas, innovations and resources to support this rapid evolution of distance education. Since 1990, COL has helped introduce, or enhance, teaching/training programmes in more than 40 countries; conducted seminars and studies on specific educational needs and established an extensive network of education and technology specialists around the world. They are now contributing to many varied educational programmes, often using low-cost and innovative technologies, throughout the Commonwealth and also to other non-Commonwealth countries. Some of these programmes are described as "Models for Success."


COL is governed by an international Board of Governors, whose Chairman is Dr. Ian Macdonald of Toronto, and directed by its President, Dr. Gajaraj Dhanarajan. Memorandum of Understanding

The purpose of The Commonwealth of Learning, as reflected in the Memorandum of Understanding, is to create and widen access to education and to improve its quality, utilising distance education techniques and associated communications technologies to meet the particular requirements of member countries. The agency's programmes and activities aim to strengthen member countries' capacities to develop the human resources required for their economic and social advancement and are carried out in collaboration with Governments, relevant agencies, universities, colleges and other educational and training establishments among whom it also seeks to promote co-operative endeavours. 


Four key roles

In addressing all of the functions and objectives prescribed in the Memorandum of Understanding and working in all parts of the Commonwealth, COL is developing four key roles in its quest for improved access to and quality of education through the use of open, distance and technology-mediated learning as:

          a catalyst for collaboration

         a Commonwealth resource for training of distance educators

         a capacity builder of the Commonwealth and its educational institutions

         an information and knowledge provider

All levels and sectors of education are assisted through developmental themes such as mixed-mode institutions, quality assurance and credit transfer, continuing education and professional/skills development, technical/vocational education and training, trade standards, teacher/instructor training, open schooling, education for all, non-formal education, rural development/agricultural education, media empowerment, literacy and values education, the environment and gender-and-development.



COL is financed by voluntary pledges of funds from Commonwealth governments. In addition, specific projects are supported by external agencies. COL's headquarters and facilities in Vancouver are provided by the Government of Canada and the Government of the Canadian Province of British Columbia. Chairman

On January 1, 1994, Canadian educator and economist, Dr. H. Ian Macdonald, was appointed Chairman of the Board, succeeding founding Chairman, the Rt. Hon. Lord Briggs of Lewes. Dr. Macdonald is a former President of York University in Toronto. President and Chief Executive Officer Dato' Professor Gajaraj (Raj) Dhanarajan joined COL as its second President on September 1, 1995, having already earned world-wide respect as an active advocate of open learning and distance education, especially in Asia. COL's founding President and Chief Executive Officer was Professor James A. Maraj.

Staff and Regional Advisers: COL's professional staff is recruited internationally and is comprised of specialists in a wide range of distance education fields.


The Commonwealth of Learning,
1285 West Broadway,
Suite 600,
Tel: (604) 775 8200,
Fax: (604) 775 8210,
Videoconference Room (H.320 - 112/128 Kbps) (604) 739 6501/6521
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