Sunday, September 17, 2017 News

Brazil Adopts Open Licensing in National Textbook Program

Open Education

Brazil will require open licensing for digital supplemental resources that accompany publicly funded textbooks starting in 2019

Brazil’s Programa Nacional do Livro Didático (PNLD) is one of the largest national textbook programs in the world. Each year, the program purchases curricula for a set of primary or secondary school subjects, including textbooks and digital supplemental resources for teachers. In 2017, PNLD spent R $1.3 billion (approximately US $400 million) to purchase more than 150 million textbooks for nearly 30 million students. 

Starting in 2019, the program will for the first time incorporate an open licensing requirement. The PNLD 2019 call for proposals, released this summer, requires that publishers license the set of digital supplemental resources that come with textbooks—including lesson plans, graphic material, and assessments—under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) license. Publishers also are given the option to negotiate a purchase price for the copyright of the full textbook, so that the Ministry of Education can make the book available under CC BY-NC as well.

This new policy will result in a plethora of new open educational resources that will be available for teachers across Brazil—and the world—to freely download, edit and share to better serve all students. It also takes a meaningful step toward making open licensing the default for Brazil’s national textbook program.

Open Licensing Policies

Governments around the world have been unlocking benefits for society through policies that make publicly funded educational resources available to the public by default. Open licensing policies ensure that educators, students, entrepreneurs and innovators have permission to use, improve, and add value to publicly-funded works. These policies also ensure that both governments and citizens get the right to use what they pay for, resulting in fairer and more efficient stewardship of public funds.

Brazil stands out as the first Latin American country to adopt a national open licensing policy for publicly funded educational resources. Several countries in Europe have moved in this direction, including Poland, which created a set of publicly funded open textbooks for basic education, and the Slovak Republic, which committed in its 2017-2019 open government plan to openly license all educational resources produced under contracts with the education ministry. These two programs use a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, which is a best practice for publicly funded works. In the United States, several state-level efforts have worked to develop open textbooks for use in schools, including Utah and Washington.

Open Education in Brazil

For nearly a decade, advocates in Brazil have been working to advance OER policy through the OER Brazil project (, with notable leadership from the Educadigital Institute. An early victory of these advocacy efforts was the 2011 decree by the municipal government of São Paulo that released educational materials created by public school employees under an open license. This was followed several years later with a similar decree at the state level, requiring that educational resources created with Federal District funds be made available online under an open license. While neither of these policies were widely enforced, they helped elevate the visibility of the issue at the federal level.

In 2015, Brazil’s Congress hosted an International Seminar on Open Educational Resources in Brasilia, including speakers from the U.S. and Slovakia. The seminar sought to build support for federal legislation that would make open licensing the default for publicly funded educational resources. While this legislation did not ultimately advance, the momentum around the seminar led to further relations with the Ministry of Education, which in 2016 adopted an administrative rule defining a process for the reception, evaluation and distribution of digital educational resources that are either open or cost-free.

The Ministry is now working to develop a repository that will hold open educational resources, following a commitment in Brazil’s latest open government plan to “establish a new model for assessing, purchasing, fostering and distributing digital educational resources.” The plan underscores how continuous use and adaptation of digital educational resources can support the plurality and diversity of Brazilian education. 

Brazil’s OER movement continues to evolve. Last year, the Open University of Brazil (UAB), a consortium of over 100 public higher education institutions in Brazil, launched an open educational resources repository called eduCAPES. During the Americas Regional Consultation for the 2nd OER Congress, Educadigital partnered with the UNESCO Chair in Open Education Brazil to launch the Open Education Initiative, which seeks to raise awareness of Open Education and OER across the country.

The open licensing policy in PNLD represents the next big step in Brazil’s pathway toward openness. While there are some limitations in that it only applies directly to digital supplements and uses a more limited noncommercial license, the policy will result in a deluge of open educational resources for use in schools, and sets the stage for broader expansion in years to come.

SPARC’s Director of Open Education Nicole Allen is on the advisory council of the Educadigital Institute and was a guest speaker at the 2015 International Seminar on Open Educational Resources at the Brazilian Congress.

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