Education/News/August 2019/Together, we can create an environment that promotes Quality Education
Together, we can create an environment that promotes Quality Education!
Author: User:Dominik Theis (WMDE)
In Ancient Rome, a forum was a gathering place of great social significance, and often the scene of diverse activities, including political discussions and debates. We used the idea to bring together civil society, educational practice and political decision-making bodies in order to discuss the future shape of the educational landscape.
Education is a human right and as such it is indispensable for a functioning democratic society in which all people can actively participate as responsible citizens. Therefore, education should be accessible, participatory and democratic. Open Educational Resources (OER) and Practices (OEP) are approaches towards equitable educational opportunities for all and that is why we need policies and laws worldwide to promote and support it.
In order to reach educational equity we need good practices and examples, such as the Wikimedia projects, but we also need a framework that welcomes the sharing and accessing of knowledge. Wikimedia Deutschland is part and backbone of the Free Education Alliance that unites different organizations and individuals that advocate Open Education. The alliance is both a forum and a driving force for political and social change in the diverse educational landscape of Germany.
Quality Education is education that ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all. While we - as a open movement - understand its importance and the urge to achieve it, a lot of decision-makers are still hesitant. The alliance is continuously trying to make politicians understand why knowledge and education should be a common good.
Even though education is a human right, economic interests dominate the field.
Right now, governments and political decision-makers of the German federal states are focusing on the promotion and expansion of several platforms, closed ecosystems and marketplaces in order to “digitize education”. The means contradict the goal of teaching young people digital literacies and the critically reflected confrontation with the internet. This promotion, which is geared towards the preservation of traditional and rigid structures, shows an outdated understanding of education within and for a digital society.
Since the educational sector is still a market of economic interests, dominated by influential companies like Microsoft and publishing houses, smaller projects that foster Quality Education hardly get recognized or assigned for projects by the Ministry of Education. Profit-oriented providers usually offer a one-size-fits-all model for the digitization of the educational sector which leads educational institutions in deep dependency. That way, teachers, pupils, and students not only get used to closed software, they also get trapped to continue using it due to their non-transferable formats.
We need to work together and help each other in order to be stronger and get heard.
The Free Education Alliance was founded in 2014 based on a initiative of Wikimedia Deutschland as an attempt to make open educational projects and ideas more visible. We aim for the consideration of a sustainable transfer of competencies that can be realized through open practices such as working with or producing open educational resources. For the last five years, we built connections to the decision-makers in Germany and established ourselves as experts and leaders in the educational sector.
As a coalition that combines almost 20 organizations and more than 40 educational practitioners we show how holistic educational processes can be promoted through Open Education using a Collective Impact approach. Collective Impact is the commitment of a group of actors from different sectors to a common agenda for solving a specific social problem, using a structured form of collaboration. With the support of the still growing community of Open Education advocates we managed to get heard and have a voice in educational matters.
The diversity of educational initiatives doesn’t get properly recognized.
The educational sector is diverse and colorful. Quickly we realized that having a voice in the educational matters and policy process is essential, but displaying the diversity of the Open Education Community would be the more sustainable goal. The drive for action of every advocate, project, and activity - that we see everyday - needed to be broadcasted and promoted.
We need to create open spaces to showcast the benefits of an open exchange of diverse ideas.
The Alliance, together with other very engaged actors in the movement, created and combined a platform for open exchange within the Open Education Community. In form of working groups, everyone that involves themselves in education can share their ideas, get people involved and have the possibility to make their projects visible. Through the collaboration and support of the Alliance and other coalitions that host these working groups, we are now able to show more diversity and the wealth of ideas concerning Quality Education.
Getting attention and encouragement is a lengthy and exhausting affair.
Having a space where the community comes together and encourages each other in their ideas and project, enables the Alliance and the community not only have one voice in the political discurs, but a variety of strong voices that are getting louder everyday. Still, changing policies and getting decision-makers is a long and exhausting thing to do. It takes a lot of patience and stamina to get seen, heard, and understood.
You can make people understand your cause through endurance, openness and good arguments.
To push the efforts of the Alliance and the community, we aimed for an even more open exchange with the politicians and a lasting relationship with them. Since it always takes us a lot of resources to enter their spaces of political discussions and be heard, we created a new space where everyone can freely join and exchange ideas and thoughts. The idea was to get the political debate back to the people. In Ancient Rome, for example, decisions were made in the form, a gathering place of great social significance. We used the idea to bring together civil society, educational practice and political decision-making bodies in order to discuss the future shape of the educational landscape.
The goal of the Forum Open Education was to make decision-makers see and understand the advantages of Open Education and to start conversations. We use these conversations to set impulses in the educational sector, share our suggestions on reaching Quality Education, and pave the way for cooperation. Especially, since Germany’s national government agreed upon a comprehensive educational strategy, we are now trying to increase the pressure to the responsible authorities to implement said promises.
We hope that this forum, which takes place once a year, can open up the educational sector minimize the influence of the profit-oriented companies and makes decision-makers sensitive for the advantages of Open Educational Resources and Practices. Step by step, were building bridges and long-lasting connections, so that slowly but surely we get invited more often to comment on current topics of discussions and more and more politicians see us and our partners as full-fledged actors in the political field. We can only encourage everyone in the Wikimedia Movement to:
Get together, show diversity, be welcoming and stay persistent!
Open Education, Open Educational Resources, Open Educational Practices, Advocacy, Policy Work, Forum Open Education
Social Media channels or hashtags: Dominik Theis, Free Education Alliance