Polish Prime Minister Office yesterday accepted „Digital School program” with „Digital Textbooks” component included. With 45 million PLN (approx. 15 million USD) funding it has been the biggest governmental Open Educational Resources initiative in Poland so far. The government has decided to fund creating full set of educational materials for grades 4-6 (9-11 year olds). All those resources will be available under CC BY license, which is fully free license according to the Definition of Free Cultural Works.
„Digital School” program (with „Digital Textbooks” component) was initially drafted and proposed to the Prime Minister Office by Jarosław Lipszyc (Modern Poland Foundation), Piotr Pacewicz, Alicja Pacewicz (Center for Civic Education), Alek Tarkowski (Creative Commons Poland) with cooperation of Witold Przeciechowski (Prime Minister Office). All those organizations are members of Open Education Coalition, a network of NGOs and educational institutions promoting OER in Poland. This draft was accepted by Ministry of Education, but at a later stage of preparations the free licensing requirement was left out. Both Open Education Coalition and Modern Poland Foundation took part in the public consultation process; their comments in support of free licensing were taken on board in the very last minute. The final version of this program was yesterday accepted by the Prime Minister Donald Tusk.
This is a big win for Open Educational Resources movement ending several years of hard work. Almost exactly 3 years ago Open Education Coalition organized OER conference in the Polish parliament where for the first time in Poland the need for free public educational resources was expressed. Since then Coalition has grown substantially from just 4 to over 15 organizations. It must be noted that from the very beginning the Coalition was supported by Open Society Institute. Since then countless papers were published, and countless workshops and trainings have been organized. All this work is now giving visible results.
Using educational materials in a free and unrestricted way is more than crucial for effective educational system. We believe that a right to use, re-use, improve and adapt human knowledge to one’s needs is just one of the basic human rights. We are very pleased that Polish government now sees the problem of access and right to use educational resources as its own responsibility.
Also today Modern Poland Foundation decided to re-shape it’s Free Textbooks project, which was first announced in early 2007. We have been working hard to create the best free educational resources and to prove that OER is a way to go. All educational materials we created for Physics, Geography, Mathematics and Civic Education have now millions of users. We are happy that Free Textbooks project has provided a clear evidence of OER importance. We also think that there are institutions out there which will be more competent in creating free textbooks with the help of government funding. This doesn’t mean we will not participate in OER movement any more, quite the contrary. We just want to concentrate on the area of our expertise, which is digital infrastruture for schools, media literacy, free culture and digitalization of cultural works. You can expect more information on that soon, and we promise that you will like what we will have to say.
We want to thank CEE Trust and Open Society Institute for their support for our work in the field of Free Textbooks and OER.