Prof Asha Kanwar to Head the Commonwealth of Learning

Professor Asha Kanwar, one of the worlds leading advocates for learning for development, and current Vice President of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), has been appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the international organisation. She succeeds Sir John Daniel, whose term as COL’s President ends on 31 May.

Dr Kanwar has over 30 years of experience in teaching, research and administration. In addition to the several books, research papers and articles to her credit, she has made significant contributions to gender studies, especially the impact of distance education on the lives of Asian women. These studies have established that better educational opportunities and access to new technologies have made substantial differences to the attitudes, values and concerns of Asian women. She is also a recipient of several awards and fellowships, including the International Council for Distance Education (ICDE) Prize of Excellence.

In making the announcement, the Honourable Burchell Whiteman, O.J., Chair of COL’s Board of Governors and former Jamaican Minister of Education and Culture, noted that “I am delighted by the Board’s appointment of Professor Kanwar as President of our organisation. With her profound knowledge and rich experience of open and distance learning and her vision for the Commonwealth of Learning in the medium term I expect that she will take COL to a new level through a process of significant and sustainable evolutionary change. Her personal attributes and her international profile should prove to be valuable assets.”

Professor Kanwar joined COL in 2003 as Education Specialist, Higher Education, and became Vice President in 2006. Her current role includes specific responsibility for stakeholder engagement and programme direction. Earlier, she was Director of the School of Humanities at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (India) and was Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University from 1999 to 2000. Prior to joining COL, she worked in Africa as a consultant in open and distance learning at UNESCO’s Regional Office for Education in Africa (BREDA) in Dakar, Senegal.

The Commonwealth of Learning, which is based in Vancouver, Canada and New Delhi, India, was created by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Vancouver in 1987 to encourage the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. The Commonwealth comprises 54 countries – most of which are developing nations – and one-quarter of the world’s population.

“COL is a unique organisation which has the ability to respond to the needs of a wide range of stakeholders,” said Professor Kanwar, “from the Batwa community in the forests of Uganda, the rural women in Malawi, goat herders in India, construction workers in Nauru, out of school youth in Jamaica to ministries and tertiary institutions across the Commonwealth. Being relevant to such a diverse constituency and delivering on results is both a challenge and an opportunity that I look forward to.”