UNESCO-ICDE Global High Level Policy Forum (9-11 June 2015, Paris, France)
Online, Open and Flexible Higher Education for the Future We Want.
Over 150 participants from more than 55 countries around the world participated in the Global High Level Policy Forum, organized by UNESCO in partnership with ICDE. The Forum was held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 9-11 June 2015.
Qian Tang, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, and the Secretary General of ICDE, opened the Forum and welcomed the participants. In their presentations, they highlighted that education is a high priority and one of the Millennium Development Goals. In follow up to the Millennium Development Goals, set for the period from 2000 to 2015, the United Nations is now working to outline the Sustainable Development Goals for the next period to 2030. UNESCO, in close collaboration with other UN agencies as co-conveners, organized the World Education Forum in Korea in May with participation by government ministers from more than 100 countries, non-governmental organizations and youth groups. The participants committed to the Incheon Declaration which encourages countries to provide inclusive, equitable, quality education and life-long learning opportunities for all. The Declaration will underpin the education targets in the Sustainable Development Goals that will be ratified at the United Nations in September this year.
The participants of the Global High Level Policy Forum included senior officials of education ministries and policy makers in higher education; academic staff; representatives of teacher associations and student organizations; UNESCO Chairs in ICT and open and distance learning; the educational technology industry; global and regional networks; researchers; as well as leading non-governmental organizations in the field.
From statements to actions
The aim of the forum was to build on the Bali message, Incheon Declaration and Qingdao Declaration to turn statements into actions to ensure equity, access, and quality learning outcomes. In particular, this is to respond to the scale and urgency of need for higher education in the period 2015 to 2030 due to the expected massive growth of students. The purpose was to develop the Paris message - a clear set of actions for the participants to commit to and take back to their countries.
Equity, access, quality and teachers in the digital age
Over two days, plenary discussions with panels of speakers including industry leaders and experts addressed policy challenges for equity, access and quality learning, and the next generation of teachers. Breakout sessions were also held to formulate actions on equity, access and quality, learning outcomes and mobility, lifelong learning, and online education. Participants were given the opportunity to actively engage and present their own experience, opinions and recommendations.
The Paris Message contains actions targeted at governments and institutions. Participants committed to take the Paris message to their governments, institutions, companies and associations in order to address the challenges and take concrete and urgent action.
Closing remarks - two university presidents
Merodie Hancock, President of SUNY Empire State College, USA said she was sad to hear that some people in the world feel threatened by online education. She believes that rather than defending online education, an offensive approach needs to be taken. She was glad to see that participants, representing countries all over the world, are fighting the same battles and she was optimistic that challenges can be solved.
Primrose Kurasha, President of the African Council for Distance Education and Vice Chancellor of the Open University of Zimbabwe outlined a considerable number of lessons learned as a result of the forum. She noted that although participants have recommended focusing on employability, we should focus on making students employersrather than simply employees. View Primrose Kurasha’s list of recommendations.
Closing remarks – ICDE and UNESCO
Tian Belawati, President of ICDE and Rector of Universitas Terbuka, Indonesia said she was inspired and energized to be part of the forum. She noted that barriers and challenges have now been identified and actions crystallized in the Paris message, and that participants have the obligation to take the Paris message back to their countries for action by governments, institutions and other stakeholders. The next step will be the High Level Policy Forum in Pretoria on 17 October 2015, organized in partnership with UNESCO, the Commonwealth of Learning and the Open Education Consortium.
David Atchoarena, Director of the Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems at UNESCO was glad to see a very full and diverse gathering of participants and a forum focused on quality, the transformation of higher education, pedagogic innovations, the teacher and their professional development. He noted that the Paris message is full of actions, and that cultural diversity is a very important value for UNESCO. He also stated that the integration of ICT and new actors needs to be followed and observed.