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West Africa and the Sahel: UNESCO's commitment on OER for development

Ministers responsible for Education, as well as Youth and Employment, from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal examined capacity building and policy for OER in the Sahel in UNESCO High Level Forum on 22 October 2021.
Tawfik Jelassi

The Ministerial debates highlighted diverse sharing initiatives and strategies for harnessing the potential of OER to support inclusive and quality education. They were inspiring and encouraged innovation, particularly in the digital age, to facilitate the acquisition of digital skills and knowledge by young people. The Ministers at the event underscored the need for the development, adoption and use of OER in line with the  UNESCO Sahel Action Plan for OER adopted in December 2020.

The Forum is part of the implementation of the OER Recommendation in the Sahel and has also allowed Ministers of Education from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal and other stakeholders, including the representative of the Ministry of Education of France to recall their commitment to the operationalization of the 2019 OER Recommendation.

Tawfik Jelassi, UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information, in his opening remarks underscored that OER promotes innovation and contributes to meet the knowledge and skill needs of youth while enabling the achievement of quality inclusive education.

It is crucial to move forward in developing OER to improve learning through mutualization of efforts, capacity building of stakeholders, contextualization of OER to endogenous realities and international cooperation.
Mamadou Talla, Minister of Education of Senegal

The Forum emphasized the potential of OER as a catalyst for the continued development of human capital as well as its capacity to enable the creation of inclusive knowledge societies.

Participants at the meeting highlighted the value of the OER Recommendation, which provides an intergovernmental framework for increased collaboration between stakeholders at the national and institutional levels, including with the private sector. Participants also underscored the value of the pooling of resources, which will lead to faster and less costly results in ensuring the potential of OER for supporting education and innovation in the Sahel is met.

The discussions emphasized the capacity of OER for inclusive quality education and resilient education systems, including harnessing the digital transition, and in emergency situations such as the current Covid-19 pandemic. A key challenge raised by the Ministers was ensuring access to digital OER for people living in disadvantaged areas, with limited access to the Internet.

In her concluding remarks, Sidibe Dedeou Ousmane, Minister of National Education, Mali underscored the key role of capacity building, stating that the training of teachers in OER design and management of open licenses and permissions has been a major challenge. Hence the importance of integrating capacity building in OER development into initial and ongoing teacher training programs.

Background

The UNESCO OER Recommendation is the only UNESCO normative instrument in the field of technology and education. It sets out five areas of action (i) capacity building to create, access, re-use, adapt and redistribute OER, (ii) supportive policy, (iii) inclusive and equitable access to quality OER, (iv) sustainability models for OER and (v) international cooperation.

The OER Dynamic Coalition was established further to the adoption of the UNESCO OER Recommendation by Member States at the 40th Session of the UNESCO General Conference in November 2019. The objective of the Dynamic Coalition is to support governments in implementing the OER Recommendation by promoting and reinforcing international and regional cooperation among all stakeholders in the first four areas of the UNESCO OER Recommendation.