It was a glorious moment for Nigeria, when the country was singled out by different speakers and praised with commendation in recognition of the speedy way with which the country produced the first-ever draft National Policy on OER.
The commendation came at the recently-concluded 2nd World OER Congress which held between 17-22 September at the Cankarjev Dom in Ljubljana the capital of the Republic of Slovenia. The theme of this year’s congress ‘OER for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education: From Commitment to Action’ and was attended by well over 105 member states, 25 ministers, 450 participants at the Congress, 200 participants at the Virtual Congress, 450 participants at the Regional Consultation and witnessed by 45,000 visitors on the website.
In his opening remarks, the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, His Excellency Professor Millan Brglez charged participants to continue to pay attention to the Paris Declaration, adopted at the first World Congress more than five years ago, in which participating countries laid out the aspirational and normative foundations of a holistic and inclusive approach to education.
He argued that nowhere in the world should education be perceived as a privilege or luxury, rather it should be treated as a basic human right that must be guaranteed to all individuals, regardless of their age, gender, material and social status or any other personal circumstance. He urged meeting to link the question of open educational resources to the realisation and effective attainment of sustainable development goals originating from the Agenda 2030.
He further stated that quality and accessible adaptation to rapid technological advances and new learning environments remained in his opinion, the most important tool for addressing profoundly unjust global developmental imbalances. He noted that knowledge platforms created by innovative educational processes create new opportunities not only for personal growth but also for the promotion of democracy, equality and just development around the globe.
The President said that the incredible spread of what was hitherto called Information Super High Way, had necessitated an appropriate adaptation of the widest possible spectrum of public policies. He noted that the amount of information, that individuals of virtually all ages were able to instantly acquire through various means of communication had changed “our patterns of thoughts and the way we perceive the world around us,” adding that the changes have also established the need to equip individuals with knowledge, skills and resources that allow them to grasp the opportunities offered by the contemporary world of Information and Communications Technology.
He expressed his pride that Slovenia in partnership with UNESCO, stood at the forefront of these transformations and had gained important international recognition as a reference country in the development and deployment of open education and that the World Congress, would be solid proof that Slovenia’s commitment to inclusive and quality education was only growing stronger by the day.
In a key note speech, the Minister of Education, Science and Sports of the Republic of Slovenia, Her Excellency Professor Maja Makovec Brencic stated that as the world population swells to over 7 billion and the obligation to provid and solutions to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education in order to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. She informed the gathering that as governments are looking for ways of improving and adapting to current fast changing educational environments, the Slovenian government had long developed the strategy for the informatization of education, barely after two years of gaining independence, through various phases of educational planning.
Professor Brencic stated that her country had taken a holisitic approach OER, becoming a reference country. This however entailed a change towards the ethos of openness in culture and the vision to explore among other innovative services, technologies, pedagogies and learning environments. This also necessitated a long term objective of involving stakeholders in discussing, researching, developing, implementing, testing, validating and sharing good practices on open education and openness beyond education.
She further informed the gathering that the success of Slovenia in its piloting of open education is largely due to the country’s flexibility and size, the country she said, has also joined the process of creating a stronger global policy agenda around OER to make sure that all stakeholders-teachers, learners, families, school managers, educational policy makers and the local communities, digital communities, economic and social partners among other institutions, have a voice in charting the way forward.
According to her pursuant to digital transformation, educators from all grade levels were coming to realise the benefits of OER in the classroom, “teachers have begun making drastic changes to their instructions, assessments, even the physical make up of their classrooms and at a much faster rate than expected.” She remarked that “today in Slovenia, Open Education is being put in strategic development plans and institutions have started to transform their roles from traditional educators to open educational spaces, including cross sectoral projects and initiatives.”
The Minister assured participants that Slovenia intends to make a change in the field of OER, achieve progress and learn from the successes and experiences of other UNESCO member states. She invited members to rely on the expertise of Slovenia in providing information about policies in relation to OER, actions, technologies and practices, while noting that Slovenia was proud of the path it had taken in modernising its education. She encouraged others nations to partner on concrete projects and initiatives.
In a video message, the Director-General of UNESCO, Dr. Irina Bokova recalled that in 2015, the World agreed on a new, universal and comprehensive education goal in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with access, equality and equity, as key priorities. She noted that Open Educational Resources offered vast potentials on all accounts. She said that with ‘open’ as the operative word, OER are openly licensed materials and resources that could be accessed, freely used, reused and adapted to the needs of the user.
Dr. Bokova expressed her delight and satisfaction with the progress being made around the world today on OER. She said UNESCO had a special relationship with Open Educational Resources, having coined the term in 2002, then helped to develop and disseminate it- including organising the 1st World Congress in 2012 where under the Declaration, UNESCO called on governments to ensure educational materials paid by public funding, be openly licensed.
The DG further noted that good practices could be found at every level, from primary to vocational and higher education, and in every region, from North America to Sub-Saharan Africa, where UNESCO’s OER-licensed primary school teacher training resources are freely available in 23 languages.
She however, observed that steep challenges remained but that the Congress provided a powerful opportunity to explore opportunity to explore together, ways to tackle them and take forward the 2030 Agenda, where it mattered most, at the national level.
In a speech, the President of the Commonwealth of Learning (CoL), Professor AshaKanwar, stated that it was an honour for the Commonwealth of Learning to be in partnership with UNESCO and the Government of Slovenia for the 2nd World OER Congress, especially,sinceCOL and UNESCO organised the first World OER Congress barely five years ago in Paris and this time with Slovenia as a key partner.
Professor Kanwar recalled that COL had organised six regional consultations around the world in the lead up to the 2nd Congress, when two common themes emerged, one that there was a very uneven development of OER within each region. Some countries had already developed policies and were implementing them, while others were still in the initial introductory stages. The second commonality was that in spite of major efforts over the past five years, the need for advocacy and capacity building was considered a key priority. She congratulated Nigeria for swiftly producing the first ever National Draft on Policy on OER which is awaiting ratification by the National Council on Education.
She emphasised the need to view it not only as a product, but as a process that involves and empowers stakeholders into becoming active producers rather than simple consumers of content. She noted that OER are based on three clear values that would help advance the theme of the Congress; equity & inclusion, collaboration & partnership, and respect for diversity.
Participants were reminded that as we live in a very unequal world, a poor widow in Kenya with four children told her colleague that the worst feeling a mother could get next to hunger, was the inability to buy a textbook when her child needed it for her school, adding that “in Cameroon in 2012, a dozen students in Grade2 were sharing one textbook for reading and fourteen students had access to only one math textbook.”
Professor Kanwar, enthused that using OER can certainly reduce costs and put a textbook in the hands of each child. She divulged that a recent COL study on OER in Antigua and Barbados, indicated that each student saved 64 ECD per semester per course when OER textbooks were used and that further use of OER, also improved student performance by 5.5%.
In a presentation in plenary entitled ‘The Role of Institutions, Teachers and Students on OER: Perspectives from Nigeria’ the Secretary of the National Steering Committee on OER in Higher Education and Director, Directorate of the Executive Secretary’s Office, Mr. Chris Maiyaki, in Higher Education, narrated the events leading to what was adjudged as Nigerian government’s remarkable follow up action, to the Africa Regional Consultation on OER with the production of the first ever draft policy document on OER.
He informed that Nigeria with an estimated 186milion population was Africa’s most expansive educational system enrolling over 20m at the basic, post-basic and higher education levels with a Higher Education system made up of about 642 institutions enrolling about 2.4million students.
Mr. Maiyaki highlighted those elements that make up the Nigerian Educational System including regulatory and management frameworks, challenges, constraints, and the agenda/ aspirations engaging the minds of policy makers, leaders and stakeholders alike.
He said that Nigeria keyed into the OER movement because it was a worldwide emerging solution which promised to reduce costs, promotes the use of and easy access to ICT in education, increases access to learning resources and enhanced the quality of teaching and learning in Nigeria. “It also has the potential to ultimately contribute significantly to the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4), thereby advancing lifelong learning, equitable and inclusive education.”
He noted that through the use of OER, teachers could adapt to new methods of teaching and learning facilitate more interactive learning processes, including updating curricula with the most recent developments in a given field.
He advocated the need for teachers to shun fixated rigidity to top – bottom pedagogical traditions and be flexible, open to new ideas and prepare to share right to knowledge with students. Mr. Maiyaki also said that as a corollary students would be expected to key into the opportunities to be provided to have access to technical skills to deploy OER created from public funds and would also be encouraged to become content producers rather than solely content consumers, by giving visibility to OER developed by students and other stakeholders.
The Secretary, submitted that in Nigeria as obtainable in other societies, institutions and governments, would be expected to promote and fund appropriate OER programmes, adopt copy right policies, provide guidelines for quality assuring OER and put in a place a mechanism for acknowledging and rewarding outstanding innovations in OER.
According to him, to achieve this, the institutions would be providing infrastructure including ICT, broadband and the requisite equipment for a more effective and efficient utilisation of OER in Nigeria’s institutions.
He, however, said that given the economic realities, high cost of mobile technology, governments would also be able to provide funding to increase access to internet as was the case in Nigeria and other parts of the developing world.
He observed that capacity building and training remained a key factor which the government and institutions would be expected to drive the process. Overall, whereas institutions and governments would be responsible for sensitizing stakeholders on the beauty of OER, funding agencies like TETfund should be empowered by legislation, to support the funding of institutions ON OER-related ventures, as a derivative of the Fund’s book development and learning resources project,” he advised.
The highpoint of the Nigerian presentation was the loud ovation that Nigeria received when he mentioned that following Professor Rasheed’s participation in the Africa Regional Consultative meeting, he was to later spearhead the composition of a National Steering Committee, whose members collectively and tirelessly worked to produce the draft policy on OER, which copies were displayed and distributed from the Nigerian stand at the World Congress.
Mr. Maiyaki cited political commitment and unwavering support at the highest level of government including the instrumentality of Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, the support of the Permanent Delegate of Nigeria to UNESCO and the leadership of COL who passionately followed up from Mauritius and provided technical support towards the production of the policy document.
Participants did not hide their delight at some of the OER initiatives already launched which included the establishment of the National OER repository captioned the ‘Nigerian University System Open Educational Resources’ (NUSOER) which maintained by the National Universities Commission to among others, serve as a gateway to Open Resources held by 153 universities.
Participants were informed that the facility contained over 2 million OER in the form of courseware, lecture notes, textbooks, videos, maps, podcasts, conference presentations, and journal articles which were all user-friendly resources, uniquely Nigerian and African.
Nigeria reiterated her commitment to any strategic coalition and partnerships that could help in the rapid domestication and adoption of OER in the country’s educational system. The Nigerian stand was a bee-hive of activity as visitors trooped to obtain copies of the national policy on OER and make enquiries on the educational priorities and agenda of Nigeria.
Dr. Jane Agbu Consultant on OER, COL ICDE Chair and Dean of Health Sciences of NOUN made a presentation on Users’ capacity to access, reuse and share OER. There were goodwill messages from Dr. Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Mr. Qian Tang, Assistant Director General for Education UNESCO, Mr. Indrajit Bernajee, Director Knowledge Societies Division, UNESCO, Mr. Ryan Merkley, Director/CEO, Creative Commons and a well attended Ministerial Panel consisting of over 25 ministers of education. The government of Slovenia hosted a wellcome dinner and several other networking dinners, including sight seeing visits to some tourist attractions located in Lubljana, the capital of Slovenia.
Members of the Nigerian Delegation include among others, the Convener of NSC ON OER and Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Prof. Abubakar A. Rasheed, Ambassador Mariam Y. Katagum, Nigeria’s Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Professor Garba Dahuwa Azare, Director-General/CEO National Teachers Institute, Kaduna.
Others were Professor Vincent Ogunlela (NOUN), Dr. Ahmed Ilyasu Dambatta SA/DG NTI, Dr Jane-Frances Agbu, NOUN, Dr. Aminu Kazeem Ibrahim (NOUN) and Chris J. Maiyaki Director, Directorate of the Executive Secretary’s Office, NUC and Member/Secretary of the National Steering Committee on OER.