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Connections/EdTech News, July 2012  


Following extensive international consultation, COL and UNESCO received approval for the Paris Declaration on OER at UNESCO's World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress in June. The Paris Declaration is a commitment to supporting the use of OER to expand access to education. It was approved by an Expert Meeting of 300 people at the World OER Congress including representatives from many governments.

This Declaration is a significant step forward for improving the access, affordability and quality of education worldwide, according to Sir John Daniel, COL's outgoing President, who led the "Fostering Governmental Support for Open Educational Resources Internationally" initiative, which guided the drafting of the Paris Declaration.

"I am delighted that the Paris Declaration was approved by acclamation with no debate," Sir John said. "This reflects the very careful work that we have done in consulting governments and institutions in all regions of the world about drafts of the Declaration. The key principle is that 'educational materials developed with public funds be made available under open licenses (with any restrictions they judge necessary) in order to maximise the impact of the investment'."

"Fostering Governmental Support for Open Educational Resources Internationally" is a joint COL-UNESCO partnership with major funding provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Conducted in the first six months of 2012, the initiative involved a survey of governments worldwide, six regional policy forums and drafting of the Paris Declaration.


COL and UNESCO conducted a survey, sending questionnaires to all the world's governments, asking whether they already have, or intend to develop, policies on OER. A report, "Governments' OER Policies", summarises key findings and was presented to all governments. The responses received from 82 countries provided valuable input to the Paris Declaration.


Recognising that there is little knowledge of OER among many governments, the project team organised face-to-face discussions between government officials and practitioners. These Regional Policy Forums were held in Barbados (Caribbean), Pretoria (Africa), Rio de Janeiro (Latin America), Cambridge (UK), Bangkok (Asia/Pacific), Sydney (Pacific) and Muscat, Oman (Arab region) between January and May 2012.

The regional policy forums confirmed that governments generally have limited understanding of the notion of OER and open licences. Simply declaring that materials on government portals are "freely available" is not sufficient, especially for users outside the country. In addition to intensifying dialogue with governments on OER and showcasing local OER policies, experts and initiatives, these meetings gathered input for the Paris Declaration. 


The project's International Advisory and Liaison Group, consisting of government representatives from all UNESCO regions, non-governmental organisations and inter-governmental organisations, finalised a draft Paris Declaration in May. This document was presented as the advice of experts to governments at the UNESCO World OER Congress in Paris in June and received UNESCO approval as a non-binding agreement. Governments will now work on moving the Paris Declaration forward within UNESCO and through other avenues.

"The aim of the Paris Declaration is to get greater buy-in from governments to the promotion of OER and of open licences generally," said COL President, Professor Asha Kanwar, who spoke at the World OER Congress. "Government backing for open licensing of public educational materials is essential if we are to make OER the normal way of doing business instead of a marginal, donor-driven phenomenon. This will contribute significantly to the increased use of quality educational resources around the world."

The intention of "Fostering Governmental Support for Open Educational Resources Internationally" is to make way for OER to enter the educational mainstream through increased awareness among governments of their potential and the establishment of policies to support their development, use and adaptation. The widespread support for the Paris Declaration is an important step forward for learning for development.

The full Paris Declaration:


The 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers (18CCEM) will be held in Mauritius from 28–31 August. The triennial event brings together Education Ministers from over 50 countries of the Commonwealth to discuss issues of mutual concern and interest. The theme for this year's CCEM is "Education in the Commonwealth: Bridging the gap as we accelerate towards achieving Internationally Agreed Goals (IAGs)".

Parallel events include a Stakeholder's Forum, a Post-Secondary and Higher Education Leaders' Forum, a Youth Forum, a Teachers' Forum and an Exhibition/Showcase.

COL will present its new Three-Year Plan, 2012-2015 to Education Ministers for their endorsement at 18CCEM.


Promoting Healthy Communities

COL Education Specialist, Media, Mr. Ian Pringle, spoke about COL's approach to offering quality healthy education through community learning programmes in a presentation to Commonwealth Health Ministers at their meeting in May. The Commonwealth Health Ministers Meeting (CHMM) was held in conjunction with the World Health Organization's annual World Health Assembly in Geneva.


COL and UNESCO Renew Co-operation Agreement

COL President, Professor Asha Kanwar, signs the new COL-UNESCO Work Plan Agreement for 2012-2015, with UNESCO's Dr. Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education (left) and Mr. Janis Karklins, Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information (right) at UNESCO's Paris headquarters in June 2012. COL and UNESCO have co-operated in several programme areas through Work Plan Agreements dating back to 1994.