US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Arab participants on Monday launched the Open Book Project to expand access to free, high-quality, open education materials in Arabic, with a focus on science and technology. "Our hope is to lower geographic, economic and even gender-based barriers to learning," said Clinton, whose four years as the top U.S. envoy ends on Friday. "Anyone with access to the Internet will be able to read, download and print these open materials for free or adapt a copy that meets the local needs of their classrooms or education systems." At a time when Europe was still in the Dark Ages, Arab scholars preserved seminal writings from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome that otherwise would have been lost, Clinton noted.
"Today, we are honored to welcome representatives of the Arab League, of ALECSO and the Arab diaspora working to bring scientific knowledge and innovation to the people of today," she said.
It is not enough to generate the right material, Clinton said.
"We have to work together to make sure it is connected to Arab educators, students and classrooms, and I hope we can put a full year of high-quality college-level science textbooks - biology, chemistry, physics and calculus - online, for free, in Arabic," she said. "And we also want to help Arab professors and intellectuals create their own open courses." Since the early days of the Arab revolutions, the United States and the Arab League have worked more closely together than ever before, Clinton said.
"This fall in New York, we signed an agreement to cooperate more deeply and held the first U.S.-Arab League Dialogue," she said. "At a time when extremists everywhere work to deepen divides across cultures, we see partnerships like this as one chance to bridge them. And we see educational diplomacy as the means for fulfilling the obligation to try to match reality and actions with the aspirations and hopes of the men and women across the Arab world." This is a relatively new field, and there are many questions about standards, accreditation and connecting online learners to employment, Clinton said. "But we have to start, and we can start by doing what we are doing today -- learning as we go, asking the hard questions and getting good answers that we then will be able to share."