Education/News/November 2019/What can we learn from the Open Education movement about attaining educational SDG in the digital age?

Social Media channels or hashtags: Andressa Barp Seufert, Dominik Theis, Free Education Alliance

What can we learn from the Open Education movement about attaining educational SDG in the digital age?

Authors: Andressa Barp Seufert & User:Dominik Theis (WMDE)

Summary: The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal on Quality Education (SDG 4), aims to “ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”. The open movement is trying to break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to education and free knowledge. Open Educational Resources can be an instrument to bridge knowledge gaps and promote educational equity as well as to contribute to the achievement of the SDG 4.

The United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development encompasses in its fourth goal (SDG 4 - Quality Education) the assurance of inclusive and quality education for all people and the promotion of lifelong learning as key achievements to be reached until 2030. The target 4.7 of SDG 4 addresses the importance “that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development”.

To fulfill this goal, UNESCO coordinates the Global Action Programme on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) for generations of learners interacting in increasingly interconnected societies. The programme’s main objective is to “reorient education and learning so that everyone has the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills, values and attitudes that empower them to contribute to a sustainable future”. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has a strong focus on action-oriented approaches and is geared towards the acquisition of design skills for the transformation to a sustainable society.

Simultaneously, the process of digital transformation also demands societies to design new forms of living and knowledge acquisition, which influences directly on how education should be shaped and fostered. Digital Education comprehensively takes up the opportunities and challenges of the digital world and offers both technological and socio-cultural perspectives on education. Close points of contact between ESD and Digital Education are found above all in this socio-cultural perspective, which examines the interactions of the digitally networked world with individuals and society.

While digitisation opens up great opportunities to find solutions to global challenges, with great potential to improve access to knowledge and education, its processes present us with big challenges, for example disinformation and informational self-determination. Sustainable democratic structures require self-determination and maturity as educational goals, but instead they have been increasingly influenced by algorithmic decisions and mechanical controls. In this context, some question arise: How do we want to shape Digital Education, connect it with what goals, and align it with what values?

The Free Education Alliance has some answers to these questions. The Alliance seeks to reduce social educational inequality and strengthen social participation. Its members believe that the right to access education is indispensable for functioning and sustainable societies. And that all citizens should have equal opportunities to engage in education. Digital transformation has the potential to democratize education, making it more accessible and participative.

A lot of potential lies in the Open Educational Resources (OER), learning and teaching materials elaborated under an open licence and therefore legally free to be copied, used, adapted and re-shared. The creation of own teaching and learning materials corresponds to a high degree to the pedagogical approaches preferred in ESD, such as learning by doing, collaborative learning, culture of sharing.

One thing is clear: promoting education is in everyone's interest and this interest should take precedence over the exclusive rights of right holders. In cases when open licensing of learning and teaching resources is not possible, a simply formulated, central legal regulation on the use of copyright-protected content in the educational context could already remedy the situation. A general, transnational educational exception would enable students and educators to teach and learn with legal certainty.

This month, an UNESCO Recommendation on Open Educational Resources will be adopted by its 195 member states to contribute to SDG 4. This can be seen as a window of opportunity to work together closely to positively accompany and influence the implementation of this recommendation. Also in the process of implementing the copyright reform, we now need to work together to ensure that no further legal uncertainties are created and that the access to education remains as open as possible.

If we use the full potential of the worldwide movement with experience in Open Education we can have a huge impact  in the interest of all. Together, we can break down the social, political, and technical barriers preventing people from accessing and contributing to education and free knowledge. 
Open Education, Open Educational Resources, Open Educational Practices, Advocacy, Policy Work, Forum Open Education, SDGs, UNESCO