Lensky Education Forum

Siberia is Melting for Open Education

YakutskYakutsk (RU), October 2016 - This year, Siberia has experienced unique progress. In Yakutsk, the capital of the Republic of Sakha (formerly called Yakutia) and the only city worldwide built on permafrost, the government launched a hot season, and the Lensky Education Forum, which took place in August 2016, heated up the debate about open education. (The Lensky District is one of 34 administrative and municipal districts in the Sakha Republic, Russia.)

The Forum, in cooperation with UNESCO, was organized for the first time and concluded a year of innovative activities with a series of events. "We appreciate the strong support of the Yakutian government for open education fully conforming with UNESCO's objective", said Dr. David Atchoarena, UNESCO Director for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems.

More than 3,000 participants attended more than 200 events during the four-day forum, including the innovation market on the central Lenin Square of Yakutsk, where more 100 booths presented innovation projects from kindergartens and schools. "The dedication and strong support for open education by all Yakutian decision and policy makers are impressive and extraordinary", emphasized Dr. Christian M. Stracke from the Open University of the Netherlands, one of the keynote speakers at the conference plenary. "Also in the meetings with the Vice-President and other ministers, I could feel their passion, led by the Minister of Education Feodosia Gabysheva - who attended the whole four-day forum."

That Siberia is melting for open education was demonstrated in Sakha and proven by the other keynote speakers at the Lensky Education Forum, who included the current President, the former President (who is still the most popular politician in Sakha), and the current Minister of Education. The key message was that Sakha, the biggest republic worldwide, needs innovative open education and schools. Among the reasons are its large size, small population (fewer than one million habitants), and the weather - nine months of winter, with temperatures as low as -40° C.

It could be said that the Lensky Forum was not the end of a year of educational innovations, but rather the starting point for long-term change and orientation towards open methodologies in future education in the Republic of Sakha. Its title, Open School: Man - Institute of Education, symbolizes the focus on supporting all individuals to build their own personality by themselves, facilitated in open schools.

Open education is also the programme for the next decade, and it was announced that the Forum will continue during the coming years to demonstrate and showcase all the progress in opening up school education in Siberia. To achieve this sustainable goal, the government of Sakha and UNESCO have discussed and agreed on several follow-up activities, with the focus on equity and inclusive and innovative education in open schools. These will be supported by the leading initiatives ICORE and MOOQ, as well as many other organizations for open education.

It is hoped that other regions and governments will follow this good practice for the bright future of opening up education by innovative methodologies that benefit the entire society.