Brazil plans a massive expansion of distance learning in 2005 to address a teacher shortage and make education more accessible.
The Government plans to spend R$20 million (£2.6 million) on distance-learning programmes in 2005, an increase of nearly 50 per cent on 2004.
Selma Leite, president of UniRede, a virtual network of 70 public universities and higher education institutions, welcomed the change.
According to ministry figures, Brazil has a deficit of 235,000 teachers in mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology.
Of 51 higher education courses offered through distance learning and authorised by the Education Ministry, 45 are aimed at training or further developing teachers' qualifications.
Only 9 per cent of Brazilians between 18 and 24 enter higher education, compared with 30 per cent in Argentina and Chile.
Lack of investment has created a crisis in state higher education. Student numbers at the Federal University in Par state, for example, have risen from 14,000 to 36,000 in ten years but the number of teachers has remained the same.
Distance learning is already being developed. The Faculty for Technology and Science in Salvador, in the north east, has been authorised to offer 43,500 distance-learning places.
The Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora, in Minais Gerais state, is to offer distance-learning courses. And distance-learning students with Brazil's capital market institute (Ibmec) in Sao Paulo have tripled since 2003.
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