Open Government Partnership as a driver for open education
Inspired by the motivating 2nd World Congress on Open Education Resources in Ljubljana last September, we at the Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Slovak Government for the Development of the Civil Society (henceforth The Office of the Plenipotentiary) decided to follow Slovenia’s lead, and move forward the discussion of open educational resources (OER) in Slovakia, which we began having during our second National Action Plan (NAP) in 2015.
Worldwide Open Education Week, which takes place every year in March, was the perfect opportunity to raise awareness about OER in Slovakia, and open a wider expert discussion about related topics – how to create such resources, how to distribute them among teachers and the public, and how to teach the teachers to use them in their classes.
Our office is known for being active in introducing innovative topics like open education through our OGP NAPs, and being creative in bringing together relevant actors, such as government representatives, experts, NGOs, and citizens. Having experience with organizing similar events (for example our regular Open Government Week), we decided to lend the Ministry of Education a helping hand. Our aim was to bring together the people responsible for creating and approving educational resources for curriculum, those responsible for preparing and further educating teachers, and those able to provide funding for such activities at the state level and mix them with active NGOs, publishers, and teachers who do all of this without official endorsement (while maintaining the high quality of the resources). Our vision was that we would end up with a clean list of specific recommendations we could take, wrap nicely, and deliver to the representatives of the Ministry of Education or other responsible authorities to work with. OERs are generally the responsibility of the Ministry of Education, and its subordinate institutions such as National Institute for Education, the Center for Methodology and Pedagogy, the State Institute of Vocational Education, and the Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information.
During the first part of the workshop, the representatives of the IT section of the Ministry of Education presented a new repository for all available digital educational resources. The repository will have a variety of functions, and will be open to the public, with resources under open license, available for anyone to access (established by Slovak NAP 2017 – 2019).
Motivated by this outcome, we moved to the second part of the workshop, where we wanted to engage our guests in a brainstorming session about various opportunities we could use to support creation of new educational resources. Our brainstorming session turned literally into a storm of ideas of different tools we could use to encourage the creation of new open educational resources – such as support from European Union funds, competition among textbook editors, incubators for new open educational resources, and localization of available foreign educational resources.
Similarly, during our afternoon session on teaching teachers how to use open educational resources, we ended up with some ideas – such as engaging public libraries, introducing a new school program prepare teachers, and connecting NGOs with state institutions offering learning programs for teachers). The discussion, however, unearthed more general issues with the lack of practical experience with teaching during university studies and the administrative burdens involved with accreditation of an educational program.
As you might notice, we did not end up with a ready-to-implement, nice, wrapped set of recommendations. What we achieved, however, was discovering a large number of ideas, inputs, challenges, and issues which officials working on the state level deal with every day. We brought together people from state institutions, editing houses, NGOs, and pedagogical faculties who had not really been in touch to communicate and build relationships. These people sat together in one room, discussed what they were facing each day, and exchanged their views.
By the end of the day, I realized we did precisely what we are supposed to do in our role as OGP coordinators in Slovakia – we brought relevant people together in one room, inspired and encouraged them to discuss their work, bring their worries and successes out into the open, and work together to come up with solutions. We are still quite a long way from the “solution” stage of Open Education in Slovakia, but I believe that exchanges like these help us get there.