Make the World Inclusive Because the World is for Everyone

Educational resources should be made available to all learners regardless of whether a person is living with or without disabilities. This is the goal of the UNESCO Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative and the guiding principle behind the Workshop on National Policy on Inclusive OER which took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 13 and 14 July 2019.

UNESCO coined the term “Open Educational Resources” in 2002 to refer to teaching, learning and research materials in any medium – digital or otherwise – that reside in the public domain or have been released under an open license that permits no-cost access, use, adaptation and redistribution by others with no or limited restrictions.

As the OER concept matures over the years, the understanding that OER should also be inclusive to people living with disabilities (PWDs) has taken root. This is especially so considering the World Health Organization’s estimate that 15 percent of the world’s population is living with some form of disabilities. This represents nearly one billion people around the globe. Access to quality inclusive OER can contribute to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) especially Goal 4 on Education as well as Goal 16 on access to information.

“Make the world inclusive because the world is for everybody,” said Dr. Ruzita Mohd Amin, who spoke at the workshop. She is a Professor at the Department at the Economics and Head of Disability Services Unit at the International Islamic University Malaysia. In her special address, Dr. Ruzita highlighted the different types of barriers faced by PWDs including physical, information, systematic, and attitudinal barriers.

Dr. Abdul Rahman Tang, an Associate Professor of History at the University Malaysia Sabah, who himself is visually impaired spoke about his personal experience as he reflected on inclusive education from the perspective of the visually challenged. Dr. Abdul Rahman noted that the fundamental way for the blind to acquire the information is through literacy through braille. “Imagine if I cannot read braille, I would be illiterate,” said Dr. Abdul Rahman.

After two days of intensive deliberations, the experts from various institutions produced a draft National Policy on Inclusive Open Education Resources for Malaysia. The draft policy, which also drew inspiration from the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration (2012), will now be shared with other institutions of higher learning through the Department of Higher Education for wider consultation.

Experts from all 20 public universities, civil society groups, Department of Higher Education, Malaysia Centre for E-learning (MyCEL), and Malaysian Council for Public Higher Learning Institutions (MEIPTA) participated in the consultation organized by UNESCO and the Centre for e-Learning at the Universiti Sabah Malaysia with the support from the Hewlett Foundation.