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UNESCO World OER Congress releases 2012 Paris OER Declaration

Prof. Anant Agarwal, President of the Harvard-MIT online learning system edX - CC-BY

On Friday 22 June, the World Open Educational Resources (OER) Congress released the 2012 Paris OER Declaration which calls on Governments to openly license publicly funded educational materials.

OERs are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an open license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution. UNESCO has long been a champion of OERs and continues to promote the effective and legitimate use of OER across the globe.

“Based on the Paris OER Declaration, a comprehensive UNESCO OER Programme and strong global partnerships, we hope that at least 12 Member States will adopt national OER policies by 2015,” said Abel Caine, Congress organizer and UNESCO Programme Specialist for OER.

The Congress featured presentations from key supporters of OERs worldwide. Anant Agarwal, President of the Harvard-MIT online learning system edX, announced his organization’s goal of teaching one billion students through free and openly licensed versions of Harvard and MIT classes.

Asha Kanwar, President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning based in Vancouver (Canada) said, “OERs are an important milestone in democratizing education”.

“In view of the hundreds of thousands of students entering the school system, we are very interested in OER,” said Hon. Adébayo Abiola, Minister of Education of Benin.

The theme of using OERs as a means of providing equal access to knowledge was echoed by speakers from higher education institutions, governments, NGOs and the for-profit sector.

The Congress also featured a variety of ways in which OERs serve as tools for collaboration and the creation of learning resources:

  • In Grenada, OERs are being used to improve education by encouraging collaboration among teachers.

  • Korea University is piloting a wiki-style collaborative translation project.

  • Health science institutions across Africa are working together to freely share their education materials worldwide through the African Health OER Network.

The 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.

The 2012 World OER Congress was organized in full partnership with the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) and with the generous support of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.