Description of the program
„Digital School” (program website) is the newest governmental program dealing with the use of ICT in Polish schools and raising ICT competences. The program is divided into four segments: e-school (infrastructure and equipment for schools), e-teacher (teacher trainings), e-student (ICT equipment for students) and e-resources (creating open textbooks, redesign of Scholaris, the national platform for educational resources, and production of ICT tools for school management). The program was formally adopted on the 4th of April 2012 through a resolution of the Council of Ministers of Poland. The program is officially called ‘The governmental program for the development of pupils’ and teachers’ competences with regard to the use of information-communication technologies – “Digital School”‘. The program is overseen by the Ministry of Education, the Center for Development of Education (Ośrodek Rozwoju Edukacji – ORE) will be responsible for e-teacher and e-resources components and the Institute of Education Research will provide evaluation of program.
In the years 2012-2013, the project is in its pilot phase, aimed for 380 primary schools in Poland. The goal of the pilot is to determine the best selection of ICT equipment and methods for raising teachers’ competences in teaching with the use of ICT. As part of the program, schools will be equipped with hardware (including equipment for pupils and teachers, and additional equipment chosen by individual schools), with costs covered in 80% by government funding, with a 20% contribution by the local government. The schools are allowed to spend up to 200.000 Polish Złoty (approx. 50.000 €) on ICT equipment (total budget of this segment is approximately 55 million Polish Złoty – 12.8 million Euro) dedicated for 4th grade pupils. At the same time training will be provided for teachers (20 million Polish Złoty – 4.7 million Euro) and new educational materials will be created (56 million Polish zloty – 13 million Euro). Finally, a small supplementary pilot project – overseen by the Ministry of Administration and Digital Affairs – conducted among 30 schools (with a budget of 5 million Polish Złoty – 1.2 million Euro) will test a more varied range of ICT deployment in schools. The program is being funded partially with budget funds, and partially with European funding, through the Operational Program Human Capital (Program Operacyjny Kapitał Ludzki).
Context of the program
The “Cyfrowa szkoła” program differs from similar projects conducted previously in Poland in two crucial aspects. Firstly, it will provide ICT equipment directly to students, and not just to schools. The previous wave of ICT for schools programs focused on funding ICT classrooms in schools. Secondly, instead of focusing solely on the provision of equipment, it is devised as a balanced set of different measures, divided into four abovementioned segments.
“Cyfrowa szkoła” is also the first Polish program to fund open textbooks and the first major governmental OER program in Poland. In 2010, the Ministry of Education started the program “Polska szkoła” (Polish School), aimed for Polish teachers working with the Polish minorities abroad – and thus with a more limited scope. As part of the program, atomic textbook resources were licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution – Share Alike license. Among other initiatives, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs uses CC Attribution licenses for educational and training content created as part of its “Polska pomoc rozwojowa” developmental aid grant program.
Polish textbook market is estimated to be worth more then one billion Polish Złoty a year and constitutes, according to some estimates, over a quarter of the book market in Poland. Textbooks are currently written and published by commercial enterprises, and then certified for use by teachers in schools by the Ministry of Education. Teachers have the freedom to choose the textbook they prefer and parents are responsible for purchasing textbooks for pupils. The Ministry of Education provides subsidies for textbook purchases for low income families (approx. 140 million Polish Złoty in 2012).
Open Educational Resources policy in the “Cyfrowa szkoła” program
The “e-resources” segment of the program includes the creation of three types of resources:
- e-textbooks (which in Poland are a specific type of content that requires certification by the Ministry of Education in order to be designated as such)
- other educational resources made available on Scholaris, a national “knowledge base for teachers” (http://www.scholaris.pl/)
- educational TV programs for schools, prepared by the public broadcaster Telewizja Polska (TVP) and made available on its educational platform
Altogether, approximately 56 million Polish Złoty will be made available in this segment, with the majority of the funds (45 million Polish Złoty) assigned to the production of e-textbooks. According to the resolution of the Council of Ministers, all content funded by the program which is subject to copyright or database protection law will be:
- made available under the Creative Commons Attribution license or another free license – one that allows use of resources and their derivatives without payments and in an unlimited, nonexclusive manner;
- made available in at least one open format (with full specification available without technical and legal limitations);
- in the case of Web access, made available in accordance with the current W3C Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
The Center for Development of Education (ORE) is responsible for the creation of the e-textbooks. The Ministry envisions e-textbooks as a basic set of electronic textbooks easily available to use on any computer or tablet device, fitted into the core curriculum, . Ministry does not plan to create fully fledged digital and interactive textbooks at this time. To this end ORE will work with four institutional partners responsible for the creation of resources (each one for a group of related subjects) and one technical partner, responsible for creating an e-textbooks platform. Ministry of Education assumes that the first e-textbook should be available in September 2013 and all e-textbooks should be ready for September 2015. The creation of additional resources is also coordinated by ORE, as they will be published on the redesigned Scholaris platform (http://www.scholaris.pl/), which ORE has been managing.
Reception of the program
Coalition For Open Education, whose members where part of the expert group planning the “Cyfrowa szkoła” program, published in June 2012 recommendations for the program, with a focus on the resources segment. The recommendations point to challenges related to accessibility, open standards and quality management in the process of e-textbook creation, at the same time praising the program for adopting an exemplary model of content openness (The recommendations are available in Polish at http://koed.org.pl/2012/05/cyfrowa-szkola-rekomendacje-koalicji-ws-komponentu-e-podreczniki/).
The program has been criticized by commercial educational publishers, who question the quality of publicly funded e-textbooks and point to negative effects which in their opinion the program will have on the Polish textbook market by creating a content monopoly. The publishers have boycotted contests organized by ORE through which partners responsible for content creation for the e-textbooks will be selected. They are also actively lobbying against the program. In May 2012, letters criticizing the “Cyfrowa szkoła” program have been sent to the European Commission by the Federation of European Publishers and the International Publishers Association.