Science Education and Open Education Resources
Coinciding with the Rio + 20 conference on sustainable development; the question “Is the textbook dead” was pondered by educators and ministers of education alike during the Open Education Resources (OER) Congress and Exhibition held from 20th to 22nd June 2012 at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris.
In its 10th year, the conference acknowledged the ever-present role of education in any region hoping to experience organic growth; while speakers raised the pertinent point of how copyrights today can, in some ways, impede the dissemination of educational. Some met this question with an urgent approach, such as OER Africa project director Catherine Ngugi expressing the need for OER’s to be truly open and available where they are needed most.
With Cambridge, MIT and the Open University present at the congress, the facilitation of use, revision and translation of online resources was encouraged, mainly through the form of open licenses. The prestigious institutions showed readiness to steer away from the image of exclusivity that is attached to the notion of a quality education.
Prominent throughout the congress, the theme of Science Education bridges the gap between educators and learners. Through UNESCO’s partnership with Intel Corporation, model curricula which harness the power of Information and Communications Technology will be applied in institutions worldwide. All tools, whether video lectures or pedagogical materials provided by Intel may be distributed and reused, with the philosophy that these quality resources must be given free of charge.
Furthermore, the Science Education team works with UNESCO Member States to encourage policy makers to incorporate more technology and science into their curricula. At the World Summit on the Information Society 2012, UNESCO urged learners as well as educators to overcome barriers to development through OER’s, a term which was actually coined in a UNESCO Forum, ten years beforehand.
This week’s Congress and the signing of the Paris OER Declaration represents a major step forward in a movement that was started just 10 years ago, when the term OER was adopted at UNESCO’s Global Forum on the Impact of OpenCourseware on Higher Education. It sums up the importance of the medium of Information and Communication Technology in education, which stems from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to deliver the “right to education” that all people are entitled to.
Seeing as how publicity helps raise awareness of what a scientific education can do for its holder, UNESCO's Science Education team collaborates continuously with partners to disseminate the expertise made available in the fields of Life Sciences, Environment and Post Disaster and Post Conflict countries. In this spirit, UNESCO tackles the issue very directly, as a standard-setter and laboratory of ideas prepares the ground for collaborations with other world-class institutions such as IHE Category I Center in Denmark as well as the African Mathematical Union. Most recently, UNESCO and Nature Publishing have collaborated on the ambitious World Library of Science project. The online resource will bring together a wide scope of quality pedagogical materials to anyone in the world with an internet connection, free of charge, building capacities and bridging the digital divide in education.