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Government Initiatives

Governments and ministries of education could support country goals by improving the ability of tertiary and workforce development programs to produce workforces with relevant skills. Policies and grant programs that include the integration of OER in education at all levels, and the promotion of broad-based, affordable access to the Internet and Information Communication Technologies can enhance the achievement of national educational goals.

The United States of America

The US Government shows striking leadership in its National Education Technology Plan 2010 titled: ‘Transforming American Education. Learning Powered by Technology’ in which it states that: ‘All students and educators will have access to a comprehensive infrastructure for learning when and where they need it.’ (U.S. Department of Education, 2010).

Further, the US Government states in their National Broadband Plan66 that ‘the demands of the new information-based economy require substantial changes to the existing system. American businesses have pointed to a widening gap between the skills of graduates and modern workforce demands. The U.S. Department of Labor67 predicts ‘occupations that usually require a postsecondary degree or award are expected to account for nearly half of all new jobs from 2008 to 2018.’ The 21st century workplace requires both a better-educated and a differently educated work force.’ (U.S. Department of Education, 2010).

The Plan goes on to say that ‘Broadband can be an important tool to help educators, parents and students meet major challenges in education. The country’s economic welfare and long-term success depend on improving learning for all students, and broadband-enabled solutions hold tremendous promise to help reverse patterns of low achievement (U.S. Department of Education, 2010).

With broadband, students and teachers can expand instruction beyond the confines of the physical classroom and traditional school day. Broadband can also provide more customized learning opportunities for students to access high-quality, low-cost and personally relevant educational material. And broadband can improve the flow of educational information, allowing teachers, parents and organizations to make better decisions tied to each student’s needs and abilities. Improved information flow can also make educational product and service markets more competitive by allowing school districts and other organizations to develop or purchase higher-quality educational products and services.’ (U.S. Department of Education, 2010a).

Netherlands: The Wikiwijs Project

‘Wikiwijs (literally translates into English as ‘Wikiwise’) is an open, internet-based platform, where teachers can find, download, (further) develop and share educational resources. The whole project is based on open source software, open content and open standards.

The Dutch minister of Education, Ronald Plasterk, announced the Wikiwijs project in December 2008. The reason was a report by the Onderwijsraad: ‘Onderwijs en open leermiddelen’ (Education and open educational resources). In May 2009, the Ministry of Education commissioned Open Universiteit Nederland and Kennisnet to develop a program plan. The program plan consists of five components:

  • Access (an adequate technical infrastructure)
  • Content (sufficient supply of educational resources)
  • Communities (enthusiastic teachers having sufficient possibilities to connect to one another)
  • Proficiency (proficient users who possess the knowledge and skill to deal with developing, arranging and/or using open, digital educational resources)
  • Research (well-founded understanding of the results established by Wikiwijs)The scope of Wikiwijs is the whole Dutch educational system: from primary schools up to the universities.’ Wikiwijs (2011).

United Kingdom: The JISC Project

‘JISC inspires UK colleges and universities in the innovative use of digital technologies, helping to maintain the UK’s position as a global leader in education.’ (JISC, 2011) JISC is funded by the UK Higher Education and Further Education funding bodies to provide world-class leadership in the innovative use of ICT to support education and research.

The most industrialized countries of the world have and are improving their online infrastructures, and are using this to upgrade their education systems. Developing countries could benefit from models that will leapfrog old technologies and methods of management, teaching and learning so that they can become more competitive in the industrialized and information economies of the 21st century.
The US Government Open College Textbook Act of 2009 ‘authorizes the Secretary of Education to award competitive one-year grants to institutions of higher education (IHEs), professors from IHEs, and producers of open textbooks to create or update open textbooks, or adapt textbooks into open formats, for postsecondary coursework.’ This ‘requires such textbooks to be posted on an easily accessible and interoperable website and made available to the public free of charge.’ (U.S. Department of Education, 2010b).

Examples of open schooling have begun to show this as another viable alternative to providing schooling to more young people who would otherwise be unable to enter a school. Since the challenge of education to large numbers of people remain insurmountable, governments may consider allowing unconventional forms of education such as ‘institutions without walls’, that only provide access to educational resources, using technology. An open examination system would enable those children who achieve success under these conditions to enter the formal educational system where possible.

Canada: The BCcampus Free Learning Project

‘The BCcampus OER Portal is an initiative by BCcampus to create awareness of the availability of high-quality freely available open educational resources from both British Columbia, Canada and beyond.’ (BCcampus, 2011). BCcampus supports the Canadian province of British Columbia’s public post-secondary institutions.