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In 2016, during the 14th conference on Open Education, Open Recognition, its technologies and practices, a new coalition of learning stakeholders issued the Bologna Open Recognition Declaration: a call for a universal open architecture for the recognition of learning outcomes throughout life and in all fields.
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The Bologna Open Recognition Declaration (BORD)
Toward an Open Architecture for the Recognition of Learning Achievements
In 1999, the Bologna Declaration proposed a European Higher Education Area in which students and graduates could move freely between countries, using prior qualifications in one country as acceptable entry requirements for further study in another. This launched the Bologna qualification reform process, which has now been adopted by 50 countries.
In 2008, a broad coalition of educators, foundations, and Internet pioneers launched the Cape Town Open Education Declaration, urging governments and publishers to make educational materials available freely over the internet. Before and since then, an open educational resources movement has been growing significantly, featuring initiatives such as the annual Open Education Conference in the US, the international OERu, the Paris OER Declaration by UNESCO in 2012 and, of course, Creative Commons, with us since 2003.
Now, in 2016, a new coalition of learning stakeholders is issuing the Bologna Open Recognition Declaration: a call for a universal open architecture for the recognition of lifelong and lifewide learning achievements.
We are witnessing a growing awareness in large parts of the political, educational and employment sectors as well as in the public opinion, of the need to establish a more open, transparent, reliable and trustworthy approach to the recognition of learning achievements. Despite progress over the last few years, the recognition of learning remains patchy and uneven across countries and sectors.
Open Badges, the open standard for the recognition of learning achievements has proved the power of a simple, affordable, resilient and trustworthy technology to create an open recognition ecosystem working across countries, educational sectors, work, social environments and technologies. Open Badges have demonstrated that we have the means and the opportunity to put an end to the disparities of the recognition landscape. Connecting and informing competency frameworks, they become the building blocks of an open architecture for the recognition of lifelong and life wide learning achievements. They create the conditions for individuals to be in control of their own recognition, to establish their identity and agency, whether formally (within institutions) or informally (across communities).
Open access to knowledge and education is widely recognised as an irreplaceable factor for social and human growth and an indispensable component to consolidate and enrich citizenship, capable of giving citizens the necessary competencies to face the challenges of the new millennium, together with an awareness of shared values and of belonging to diverse social and cultural spaces. The importance of education and educational cooperation in the development and strengthening of stable, inclusive, peaceful and democratic societies is universally acknowledged as paramount. We now need to add open recognition to this list.
But formal education is not accessible to all citizens and does not meet all needs. Many argue that formal education represents only a small fraction of the learning that takes place across an individual’s lifespan, most of which goes unrecognised. The creation of an open space for the delivery and recognition of lifelong and lifewide learning is a key enabler for the promotion of social inclusion, employability and mobility of the world’s citizens and the development of our planet. Ultimately, the ability to recognise one’s learning achievements, whether social or professional, is a key factor in building personal agency and establishing trust within a community.
Institutions of higher education, have accepted the challenge and have taken a major role in constructing a more open educational space, but this is not enough. The achievement of greater compatibility and comparability of the systems of higher education can only be part of a more global policy to recognise all forms of learning, including the emergence of systems that encourage the informal recognition of informal learning.
We now need to expand this work beyond the borders of higher education, to create a continuum across all learnings, lifelong and lifewide. This can be supported by encouraging the adoption of more open currencies to capture and share learning achievements whether in formal, informal or nonformal settings.
The October 2016 meeting of the ePortfolio and Identity Conference in Bologna saw participation by a consortium of authoritative experts and scholars from many different countries and provides us with very useful suggestions on the initiatives that can be taken. We must in particular look at the objective of increasing international cooperation at all levels of education.
Our consortium is coordinating its actions to reach the following objectives in the short term, which we consider to be of primary relevance in order to establish an Open Architecture for the Recognition of Learning Achievements:
We, the undersigned, invite all individuals and institutions to join us in signing the Bologna Open Recognition Declaration, and, in doing so, to commit to pursuing the three strategies listed above. We also encourage those who sign to pursue additional strategies to open the recognition of learning achievements to all. With each person or institution who makes this commitment — and with each effort to further articulate our vision — we move closer to a more open, inclusive and trustworthy world.