To increase the quality of educational materials and access to education, over 45 officials and teachers from the Oman Ministry of Education exchanged views and developed a draft Oman National Policy on Open Educational Resources on 19 – 21 November 2013.
Defined as any type of educational materials in the public domain, or released with an open license allowing free use and distribution, Open Educational Resources (OERs) present Ministries of Education with a strategic opportunity to increase the quality of educational materials and using ICT to increase access to education especially for disadvantaged groups.
The intensive 2-day Workshop and 1-day meeting with the Ministry of Education was facilitated by the Oman National OER Support Committee and 2 experts from UNESCO: Mr Fengchun Miao and Mr Abel Caine.
The Workshop resulted in the development of the comprehensive draft National OER Policy focussing on key-entry points including textbook production, teaching and learning materials, the upgrade of the Ministry portal, and training materials for in-service and pre-service teachers.
As Chairperson of the Oman National OER Support Committee, reporting directly to the Minister of Education, Ms Aaisha Al Balushi was very impressed by the level of commitment shown by the delegates. “As the benefits of using and sharing OERs are obvious, I was very happy to see my colleagues developing unique policy solutions for adoption and overcoming possible implementation challenges.”
Mr Sulaiman Al-Kindi, Director General of Information Technology at the Ministry of Education looked forward to implementing the new OER technologies, “Oman is a regional leader in deploying open source software solutions. OER technologies especially those to increase access to people with disabilities or for reading and learning on mobile phones will help us to achieve educational and economic goals.”
The OER Policy will be incorporated into the existing Oman ICT in Education Strategy. UNESCO is supporting the Oman OER Policy Project within the framework of the UNESCO Project for Supporting the Paris OER Declaration.
Following on from the 2012 World OER Congress which released the Paris OER Declaration calling on Governments to openly license educational materials, the Hewlett Foundation (USA) provided UNESCO with a grant to support the development of national-level OER policies and associated capacity-building of teachers to use, develop, and share OERs.
Mr Fengchun Miao from UNESCO explains “The Project will be implemented in 3 countries from 2013 – 2014: Oman, Kenya and Indonesia.
For Oman we are developing a new Policy. In Kenya, we are linking various OER policies, and for Indonesia with an existing comprehensive OER policy, we are conducting a review together with the OECD. Several countries including Bahrain have joined the project on a self-funding basis.”
Mr Abel Caine was very pleased with the Oman Workshop, “The level of enthusiasm and high-quality exchanges from the 45 delegates especially the vocal female staff and team leaders from the Ministry led to the rapid development of the draft. I’m very confident we will quickly finish and obtain Ministerial approval for the Policy and that Oman will be the 1st Member State from the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab region to have a clear-cut OER Policy. This will be a highlight of the planned 2nd World OER Congress in 2015.”