Changes to the Act on the School Education System and school textbooks – Our Recommendations

The Coalition for Open Education would like to comment on the planned changes to the Act on the School Education System, presented by the Ministry of Education for public consultations on February 19, 2014.

The Coalition fully supports the efforts of the Ministry of Education aimed at improving the availability of educational materials and reducing the cost of textbooks and educational resources for parents. In our opinion, maximum effectiveness of this policy can be achieved through intervening into current copyright conditions of their distribution model.

We would like to stress that real availability of educational materials depends not only on the possibility to freely access them, but also on the possibility to freely use, copy, distribute and process them – this applies to all users: teachers, parents, pupils, students, as well as authors and publishers. This freedom should be ensured by implementing open licenses and guaranteeing that all educational materials financed by the Ministry of Education and other public sector bodies (including local government) will be distributed on terms which guarantee full freedom of use and reuse. That freedom may also be guarded for all subsequent content based on materials prepared, published or commissioned by the Ministry of Education through applying open licenses.

We would also like to draw attention to the fact that instead of creating new textbooks inside the Ministry of Education, or ordering new ones from external sources, it is also possible to purchase copyright to already existing titles and subsequently make them available with the application of open licenses.

The Coalition would like to restate its recommendations for the Digital School program. We believe that new regulations should include a requirement to apply standards of openness in cases when the Ministry commissions new schoolbooks or their parts. We cannot achieve better availability of educational materials without guaranteeing appropriate freedom to use, distribute, copy or modify them. Social interest dictates that schoolbooks and other school materials be public property, not the property of publishers, the Ministry of Education or schools. The question of ownership can only be applied to single printed copies, not their content.

The regulations included in the new amendment, equalling the print and digital forms of schoolbooks, are a step towards the standards of the present day. We are also glad that the new regulations prohibit corrupt practices associated with distributing textbooks in schools.