Is there a link between OER and economic growth?
Should countries invest more in education to promote economic growth? Education is crucial towards the path of socio-economic development in one country. An educated population is one of the keys in enhancing the economic productivity and creating knowledge economy and the future of the countries is relying on the knowledge and skills of their people.
While there has been progress towards meeting the Education For All (EFA) goals of UNESCO there are a lot of challenges remaining, especially in the developing economies regarding the access to education, improving quality and dealing with financial constraints. In terms of meeting the demands of the labor market and offering high quality relevant education, the developing countries need continuously to update their educational systems so they can equip students with needed skills. And this is quite difficult in a context of increasing student enrolments on one side and improving quality standards on other side. Bearing in mind the previously elaborated, the concept of Open Educational Resources (OER) is becoming more and more significant around the world, having the potential to contribute to improved delivery of education and tackle some of the key problems facing the education systems. (Commonwealth of Learning, 2012)
In this regard we come to the question: are OER one of the keys to global economic growth?
This article published in 2012 in The Guardian (by the Ambassador David T. Killion, U.S. Permanent Representative to UNESCO, and Sir John Daniel, President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning from 2004 to 2012) discusses one of the main conclusions of UNESCO World OER Congress in 2012: “the OER are key not only to solving the global education crisis but to unlocking sustainable global growth in the 21st century — that is, if governments are ready to seize on their potential.” This Congress concluded with a declaration that urged governments to play a more active role in supporting this movement, widening the circle of those able to contribute to renewed economic growth.
Therefore this article states that the economic potential of OER is big and that OERs can lower education costs substantially. The economic implications of the OER movement and its potential to expand the global knowledge economy can be achieved by making education more accessible and adaptable to the changing needs of the global economy. For example the companies who need experts in particular field will work in collaboration with educational institution to make sure the OER training and or education is aligned with exactly what that business needs.
Furthermore the authors discuss that platforms offering massive open online courses like Coursera, edX, Future Learn and many others providing open courses from leading world universities are important initiatives, but the governments are by far the biggest suppliers of education worldwide and they have the most to contribute to the OER movement and the most to gain in terms of cost savings and economic growth. (Daniel and Killion, 2012)
What is more, Andreas Meiszner and Lin Squires in their book: Openness and Education argue that when ICT and OER are appropriately developed they can significantly affect economic growth and provide alleviation from poverty. They state that many developed and particularly developing countries will gain from improved access to education and the development of open educational services that fits their needs. According to the authors what is required at this point of time, is a reinforced focus on research and development in open education and open educational services, and to put these issues at the top of the political agendas. Research and development in open education and open educational services must produce convincing evidence to show how open education and open educational services can have an impact on the development of national economies and society as whole, building policy support for open education and fostering its public adoption.
Moreover they state that understanding the social and economic impacts of open education requires unpacking many elements, resources and activities. They discuss also the iron triangle of education by Immerwhar, Johnson and Gasbarra and Daniela and Uvalic-Trumbic: quality, cost and access to education. If some of these vectors of the triangle increase it certainly leads to change in other vector. For example, if the quality of education is increasing, this will lead to increase of costs and reducing access to smaller proportion of population. And here comes on stage the OER contributing to quality education, accessible and at cost saving. (Meiszner and Squires 2013, pg.138-144)
In this regard, interesting angle offers the article The Economics of Open: “Making better use of what we already have generates economic benefit by increasing utilization. Given the worldwide demand for education shouldn’t we be doing a better job of using what we already have? Economic development is driven by skilled labour. The economics of open allows us to increase the skills and knowledge of all. Too many of our educational resources sit on a shelf unused or behind password protected systems.” (Stacey, 2012)
From my point of view, Open Education can contribute to skilled workforce in one country if it offers quality and if the students really got the right point of using OER. Brining open access to educational resources is not the only precondition for having a skilled labor. Students need quality education and mindset how to put in practice the knowledge and skills required. On that way, we can have the link between OER and economic growth. And in future we need more research and evidence on that. The open education will continue to expand and the open resources I think will come more from the nonprofit and business sector because they want workforce who will have knowledge to serve their purposes. And as it was previously stated the awareness should be raised among governments that they should play a more active role in supporting this movement, widening the circle of those able to contribute to economic growth.
- Commonwealth of Learning 2012, Exploring the Business Case for Open Educational Resources,Canada
- Daniel and Killion 2012, Are open educational resources the key to global economic growth?,The Guardian 4 July. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2012/jul/04/open-educational-resources-and-economic-growth [05.08.2015]
- Meiszner and Squires 2013, Openness and Education, Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley BD16 1WA, UK
- Stacey 2012, The Economics of Open, Paul Stacey Blog EdTech Frontier. Available from: http://edtechfrontier.com/2012/03/04/the-economics-of-open/. [05.08.2015]