Milan Brglez, President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, today welcomed over 500 experts, national delegates and Ministers of Education and Science to the 2nd World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress, organized by UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia from 18-20 September 2017 in Ljubljana.
"Education is a basic human rights that must be guaranteed to all individuals, regardless of the age, gender, material and social status or any other personal circumstance," Milan Berlez stated, adding that "the digital transformation of education is not a question of if or when, it is merely a question of how," and that quality and accessible education adapted to new learning environments and ICTs provide the most important tool for addressing global developmental imbalances.
In her opening video message, UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova highlighted that: “good practices can be found at every level, from primary to vocational and higher education, and in every region, from North America to Sub-Saharan Africa.” She noted that “while steep challenges remain, this Congress provides a powerful opportunity to explore together ways to tackle them and take forward the 2030 Agenda where it matters most, at the national level.”
The Congress, which has brought together 550 registered participants from 111 countries, marks 15 years of growth and development in open-licensed learning and teaching resources since the term “OER” was first coined at UNESCO in 2002. OER refer to any teaching, learning and research materials that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution with no or limited restrictions. While offering a greater flexibility to use, share and adapt knowledge, OER rest within the framework of intellectual property rights that fully recognizes authorship of work, as defined in the relevant international conventions.
“OER must play a key role if all countries have a chance to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of quality and lifelong education, and build peace through Knowledge Societies that are open and accessible to all,” said UNESCO Deputy Director-General Getachew Engida, in his welcoming address. Mr Engida underscored that OER combined with widening access to mobile smart devices will broaden access to knowledge resources. “Data connectivity fees required to read an open-licensed book on a mobile phone can cost as little as 2 or 3 cents,” Mr Engida said. “OER will amplify this impact, through fully recognizing authorship while being free to further share, retain, copy, redistribute or remix, including translating into local languages and cultural contexts.”
The Ljubljana Congress follows five years after the 1st World OER Congress was convened at UNESCO Headquarters. The 2012 Paris OER Declaration notably encourages governments to make open-licensing a requirement for all public and taxpayer funding allocated toward textbooks and other educational resources.
OER demonstrate a range of benefits from K-12 to technical, vocational and higher education levels addressing quality, relevance, adaptability, affordability, and pedagogic innovation. In a number of countries, OER offers the potential, if well-planned and executed, to help close the wide gap to achievement Sustainable Development Goal 4, supporting mobile and digitally-based access to near cost-free educational materials, or adaptation and translation of OER made available in multiple and especially indigenous languages.
At the Congress, a ministerial panel comprised of 12 Ministers of Education and Science underscored the need inter alia to develop greater diversity of languages for learning materials, policies to develop capacity of and partnership with teachers, and the need for both online as well as offline access options to broaden the reach of OER.
The 2nd World OER Congress follows on six regional consultations which brought together experts and policy makers from more than 100 countries, organized by the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) in partnership with UNESCO. These were held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (December 2016); Valletta, Malta (February 2017); Doha, Qatar (March 2017); Port Louis, Mauritius (March 2017); Sao Paulo, Brazil (April 2017); and Auckland, New Zealand (May 2017). National OER survey results also have been received to date from around 100 countries, reporting on current levels of progress in mainstreaming OER and the status of national and regional implementation of the 2012 Paris OER Declaration.
The Congress is expected to conclude with the adoption of the 2017 Ljubljana OER Action Plan. This Action Plan will reflect the recommendations from the six regional consultations; an open consultation on these recommendations which were posted online in the months leading up to the Congress; as well as the deliberations that will take place during the Congress itself. The Action Plan identifies concrete actions to mainstream OER to support governments to achieve SDG 4 on Quality Education.
UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia co-organized the Ljubljana OER Congress, with the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. UNESCO is the lead UN agency for coordinating and monitoring Sustainable Development Goal 4 on “Quality and Lifelong Education” and is mandated by its 195 Member States to promote the mainstreaming of OER.