Education Should Be Open Access

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May 29, 2020
by Danielle De La Fuente
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Education Should Be Open Access

Producing educational resources can be lucrative, but licensing protections keep such materials out of reach for many of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged learners. How can we foster open access? Danielle De La Fuente at Salzburg Global Seminar in December 2019

Did you know that most educational content is not available to the public? In fact, typically, it is subject to license, a non-exclusive right to use proprietary information at a cost. This hinders efforts made to provide quality and inclusive education to all – becoming antithetical to the goal of making this world a better place. Whereas opening education resources ensures that even in the most challenging of contexts – such as in refugee camps and informal settlements around the globe – we can support the efforts of both international and local actors alike to educate all children.

The NGOs, agencies, and countries involved in the field of education in emergencies produce a multitude of content and tools that include texts, multimedia resources, massive open online courses (MOOCS), software, photographs, and films. While many institutions are doing transformative work, the current system is fragmented. Typical programs focus solely on the provision of basic physiological necessities, neglecting to meet socio-emotional and mental wellbeing, or addressing trauma at its root cause. To help vulnerable learners like displaced and refugee children thrive, effective programs must address the whole person and take into account the mind, body, and spirit.

At Amal Alliance, we strive to empower displaced children and the communities we serve through our Rainbow of Education, a holistic social emotional learning and early childhood development program. However, micro-interventions are only as effective as the macro structures that facilitate and provide support. How can we claim to be inclusive and accessible to all, when many populations do not have access to resources that would enable them to reach their full potential?

Open access licensing facilitates collaboration, which brings together best practices to form a more holistic and harmonious response to promoting human development. Each organization is able to contribute its comparative advantage and core competency towards a common goal.

In the spirit of collaboration, stakeholders from around the world gathered this past December in Geneva, Switzerland for the inaugural UNHCR Global Refugee Forum. Its main purpose was to translate the UN Global Compacts into action, calling on member states, civil society, and funders to make pledges that would hold them accountable. At this forum, Amal Alliance proudly joined forces with Bibliothèques Sans Frontières, Centreity, and Salzburg Global Seminar to put forth a pledge to provide resources under open access licensing.

We called on all stakeholders who produce content and tools in the field of refugee education to open up their educational materials. We called on public and private funders to commit towards prioritizing funding for quality and inclusive open resources, guidelines, content, and methodologies.

Now, we call on all humanitarian actors to use open access educational resources to assess project impact and gather evidenced-based research. This application of resources within differing contexts would improve the dearth of evidence-based research within education in emergencies.

Let’s work together to ensure that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Danielle De La Fuente is the founder and executive director of Amal Alliance and a Salzburg Global Fellow, having attended the program Education and Workforce Opportunities for Refugees and Migrants.