Representatives from Education International and its member organisations have stressed the links between quality education and open educational resources at the second Open Educational Resources conference in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The role of Open Educational Resources (OER) in the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4 was a central focus of the second Congress on OER, held in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The conference, with the theme of “OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action”, was organised jointly by UNESCO and the government of Slovenia.
The aims of the congress were to
- Examine solutions to meet the challenges of mainstreaming OER practices in education systems worldwide
- Showcase global best practice in OER policies, initiatives and experts
- Provide recommendations for the mainstreaming of OER with links to best practices
Education union voices
Representatives of Education International (EI) and its member organisations in New Zealand, Canada, and Argentina highlighted the fact that quality education cannot ignore the importance of quality resources and their availability to educators in order to deliver quality teaching.
In an open education policy workshop, Resources, Practices, Infrastructure, Jeannie Rea, from the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU, New Zealand), stressed the importance of addressing the professional issues and working conditions of teachers and higher education personnel concerning OER policy. She also highlighted academic freedom rights and responsibilities, intellectual property rights and other matters that may or not may not be within terms of employment in increasingly precarious employment environments.
David Robinson, from the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT), representing EI on the main panel, The Role of Teachers, Students and Institutions on OER, emphasised that the public good is served best through open knowledge creation and dissemination. As key barriers for teachers to adopt OER he addressed challenges such as accessing and locating OER, financial and legal issues (e.g. copyright), incentives and support (including time), quality and relevance as well as ownership. He also noted that savings from decreased textbook and journal costs should be fully re-invested into education, including staff development and training, rewards and incentives for educators as well as maintenance of, for instance, OER repositories and sites. He closed his presentation by stressing that it is important to involve teachers and to not “do OER to them but with them”.
EI was also involved in a side event on the Right Copyrights for Open Education Worldwide organised by the COMMUNIA Association and the Intellectual Property Institute. EI delegates stressed the importance of advocating for improved copyright legislation and broad exemptions for educational and research purposes that facilitate scholarly communication and quality and equitable education for all.
Draft Action Plan adopted
The Congress also unanimously adopted the Ljubljana OER Action Plan 2017 which sets out Recommendations for Mainstreaming OER in support of SDG 4. UNESCO thanked EI and its affiliates for their feedback both before and during the conference.
The Action plan addresses five areas for stakeholders to act on: building the capacity of users to find, re-use, create and share OER; language and cultural issues; ensuring inclusive and equitable access to quality OER; developing sustainability models; and developing supportive policy environments.
In the consultation process, EI advocated for a system/whole-school approach to education reform and that OER be situated within a broader discussion on how to improve education systems. This includes an increased domestic budget mobilisation for education, well-resourced education institutions, as well as support and incentives for qualified and trained teachers and higher education personnel.
Furthermore, EI stressed the importance of involving education unions in OER policy development and implementation. And it urged caution concerning private for-profit-driven motives in OER development and related services that do not align with the interests of the education community and the strengthening of public systems.
The way forward: An international OER instrument?
The related Ministerial Statement called “on all educational stakeholders to implement the recommendations of the Ljubljana OER Action Plan 2017 to increase international collaboration around OER through a dynamic coalition to expand and consolidate commitments to actions, strategies and legislation in this area”.
Several speakers highlighted the need for an international instrument for OER. Qian Tang, Assistant Director General for Education, said that UNESCO will continue to be a platform for OER policy dialogue and development.
This event will be on the agenda for the next UNESCO General Conference in November 2017 and EI hopes that UNESCO will reaffirm its commitment to advancing OER policies and practices globally to strengthen the democratisation of knowledge and contribute to the achievement of SDG 4.