A PARTNERSHIP of universities and schools is taking on the task of developing universal course materials for use across the world.
The Partnership for Global Learning, backed by telecommunications company Lucent Technologies, hopes to use the Internet to offer teachers in many countries identical course materials at high-school level.
Universities in the United States, Mexico and Brazil are training high-school teachers to develop the materials. It is hoped they will ultimately create content and teaching techniques that can be applied around the world.
The next participants are likely to be in Asia.
"We've all got a bunch of best practices in place that can be shared," said Elizabeth Lowe, associate director of the centre for Latin American studies at the University of Florida, and director of the project.
Already, the partnership is delivering high-school course materials in all three countries using the Intenet. Even that has been difficult, despite equipment given free by Lucent, since access to the web varies widely, Dr Lowe said. Also the project has yet to work out which language or languages will be most widely used.
Still, Dr Lowe said, supporters of the programme "have recognised that distance education is becoming the solution to the massive problem of educating the fast-growing population of school-age children in these countries."
Four Latin American universities, in Mexico, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, are involved, each linked with a local high school.
In an unusual twist, students as well as teachers are helping to design the new curricula, since "often students are more advanced than their teachers in terms of familiarity with the technology", Dr Lowe said.
For now, course materials being offered are "so that students can get plugged into what's going on internationally," she said.