Toespraak minister Van Engelshoven bij de Open Education Global Conference

Toespraak van minister Van Engelshoven (OCW) bij de Open Education Global Conference, op dinsdag 24 april 2018 in Delft. De toespraak is alleen in het Engels beschikbaar.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a joy to see so many of you gathered here today. As an extensive group of like-minded professionals, connected online 24/7, you will now establish a face-to-face connection in the days to come.

I have just heard Mr Van Valkenburg say that you have travelled from dozens of countries around the world to be here. To discuss the issue of openness in education. It highlights not only the importance of this issue, but also the strength of your commitment to it.

You have come to the right place. The Netherlands is the ideal spot to talk about this theme. You are in a country that is known around the world for its willingness to think, work and develop beyond its own borders. A country that regards openness and progressiveness as paramount.

The same applies to our hosts here in Delft. For 100s of years, this remarkable city has nurtured great minds, extraordinary artists and visionary innovators.

Delft’s reputation spans the centuries – as a place where nationalities from all over the world meet, collaborate and inspire each other.

For Dutch scientist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, Delft was the scene for his discoveries.

The city also stars in the work of 1 of our most famous painters, Johannes Vermeer.

Today, Delft is home to a leading university of technology at the forefront of the campaign for openness in education. In short, there could hardly be a better venue for this conference.

It is a pleasure and an honour to be with you today. For many reasons. Not least because I fully support your ambitions.

Whether we are talking about [Open] Access, [Open] Science, or [Open] Education, the openness of research and education is an unavoidable ingredient of our future. Digital openness can actually transform the way we work.

That transformative process is already gathering speed. Never before have we been able to learn from each other more rapidly than we do today.

In the past, government leaders had to promote air travel in an attempt to bring the people of the world into contact with each other.

Today we are connected online, and we can satisfy our curiosity and our hunger for knowledge almost immediately. We learn with each other and from each other, through a MOOC or open textbook.

We are also witnessing the birth of a new breed of professionals in education. Teachers who share knowledge without limits. Who constructively criticize each other’s educational resources in a direct and efficient feedback loop.

As a result, the quality of those resources increases rapidly. Suddenly we have a community of specialists developing methods in close collaboration. And suddenly you as a teacher or an educational institution are no longer solely dependent on powerful publishers.

That in itself is good news. For in the Netherlands, reports of students purchasing fewer textbooks due to rising costs are becoming increasingly common. This is bad news for education and an undesirable situation. Only open educational resources can ensure that knowledge remains accessible to everyone. Regardless of spending power.

It's 1 of many important reasons why open-access digital learning resources are so high on my agenda. They place the student centre stage, and they let teachers be craftsmen.  

Although impressive steps are being taken, here in the Netherlands we are not taking full advantage of open educational resources yet. It's an assessment confirmed by the Education Council of the Netherlands. And it explains the Dutch government’s determination to move things in the right direction. My ambition is that by 2025 all teachers will be sharing their teaching materials openly.

Ambition is a good place to start, but ambition is nothing without action. Our government provides subsidies to help teachers form communities that share, design and reuse learning materials. And we finance projects that encourage the sharing of open educational resources.

A prime example of this approach is the Flagship Project for Bachelor of Nursing Universities.

5 degree programmes in nursing qualification have begun sharing their educational resources using an online platform. Teachers submit their teaching materials to be assessed by a quality controller in accordance with an agreed quality model. After that, they become available for reuse by other teachers. Who often enhance them by adding their own personal ‘finishing touch’.

In only 1 year, this project achieved very impressive results. Thanks to the existence of a well-organized professional community, all 17 Nursing Colleges in the Netherlands have now been persuaded to sign up to the project.

This Flagship Project has clearly fulfilled its ambitious title. It stands for the type of educational innovation that reaches the scale we are looking to achieve.

I am therefore delighted to see that Dutch higher education institutions are starting to pick up the pace of educational innovation. They have set out their ambitions in a joint agenda to accelerate innovation and education. The support for making a real and lasting difference has never been so great. Needless to say, it’s an agenda I am more than happy to assist.

We are currently seeing acceleration in many areas in society. Our modern world is full of challenges, and we all want to see solutions found today rather than tomorrow. Openness ensures that we can find these solutions more rapidly and more effectively.

Current generations of children and young people in primary, secondary and higher education know this better than anyone. They are growing up with 'openness' as a key component of their mindset.

This also has implications for how future generations will work together. A closed bastion may survive today, and possibly tomorrow –
but it will struggle to compete in an open access future. The decision not to share is a decision to stagnate. It’s a decision to ignore the bigger picture.

There is one more thing I would like to share with you before I go.

The power of our digital reality is all about the pace at which we collect, share and improve. And the global reach inherent in these activities. This is something all of you experience on a daily basis. But a meeting of the minds like this one is certainly not a daily occurrence. So please allow me to conclude with a modest plea for offline openness.

Even in this digital age, personal contact is indispensable. After all, that is where the spark catches light. The connection between the ‘whizzkid’ and the teacher who dreams of open education.

I therefore hope that your analogue experiences in the coming days will be valuable to you.

Like the American librarian, who referred to his conference visit last year as ‘a life-changing experience’.

Or the visitor from Saudi Arabia, who left the event with ‘many lovely memories’. Experiences for which a digital replacement will never be found.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Enjoy the company of your like-minded colleagues. I hope that your time here will be a treasure, and an experience well worth sharing.

Thank you.