Open government is something that every country should pursue to create a more accountable and efficient governing body. After reading the Russian Open Government Action Plan, I was disappointed not to see much action to take place in regards to education. Looking at the United State’s open government initiative for education, Russia can include some of the proposals that the US has started to implement in education. Russia’s priorities for the open government initiative are to increase involvement of the public in decision-making, fight corruption, informational openness and accountability of government bodies, the creation of an “E-government,” and the development of competition and entrepreneurship that will promote a favorable investment climate. So far, Russia has started some foundational work, such as appointing a Minister of Open Government in March 2012. However, as the US Department of Education mentioned, open government is a critical component to improve a country’s educational stance. Therefore, Russia should include some open government strategies in their proposal specifically to education.
Under Secretary Arne Duncan, open government practices became a priority for the US Department of Education. According to their website, “open government is now vital to effectively communicating and interacting with the general public, students, parents, teachers, and all constituencies engaged in public education.” The Department of Education is using open government practices to encourage transparency, participation, and collaboration. Russia’s Ministry of Education and Science can adapt some of these open government practices currently followed under the US Department of Education to further integrate open government into their education policies.
The following are a few policies that I think the Russian government and their Ministry of Education and Science should regard that the US and their Department of Education are currently pursuing:
Increasing Transparency through the Race to the Top program and Listening and Learning Tour
The Race to the Top program is a competitive grant program that provides federal money to education institutions. This program is created to incentivize States to implement large-scale, system changing reforms that will improve student achievement, close achievement gaps, and increase graduation and college enrollment rates. To continue with the idea of transparency, participation, and collaboration, the Department of Education provided detailed descriptions of the process online as well as held technical assistance programs so that the public can see what basis the department was awarding grants and how the process worked.
The Listening and Learning tour was conducted with Secretary Arne Duncan who visited every state and spoke with the public about improvements on the United States’ No Child Left Behind Act. From touring the country, a blueprint for reform was created that provided incentives for states to adopt academic standards to prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and create accountability by measuring student growth towards that goal. This blueprint is online for anyone to have access. With the school’s data also online, the public can hold their community schools accountable. Having a well-educated public and labor market is good for any country’s economy. Therefore, public investment in education is necessary for a thriving economy.
Investing in Innovation (i3)
i3 is a grant fund established as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that provides support to local education agencies, and educational nonprofit organizations. By creating a platform where education innovators can share ideas and collaborate will increase efficiency and entrepreneurship. As stated on their Open Government Initiatives in Education website, “open government in education is about building and fostering relationships and dialogue among those interested in improving teaching and learning, developing good ideas, and using those ideas to set the right policies and strategies to help our students and teachers.” Creating this platform will encourage innovation in education, which in turn will encourage entrepreneurship, something that Russia mentions as a reason to pursue an open government initiative. Improve the quality of education. By using peer review for grant applicants, the department has supported transparency.
By drafting a National Education Technology Plan in 2010, US was able to provide to the public ways they believe to use technology to enhance education. The public was invited to read the draft, make remarks and suggestions about how to better the plan, thus incorporating crowdsourcing. This is an example that Russia can use in their open government action plan as a way to use these policies to incorporate the participation and collaboration of the public to develop government plans.
Open Government Steering Committee
Currently, the US Department of Education has their own Open Government Steering Committee that implements as many open government ideas that can improve the education system. They are also in charge of enlightening the department on how open government can work to improve the department's efficiency. Russia is on the right path by appointing a Minister of Open Government. However, that Minister should have deputies’ specific to each ministry, such as a deputy of open government specifically for the Ministry of Education and Science, since this is too big of a role for one man to handle.
Increase Collaboration with OpenEd project
This project helps to identify cost savings and improvements across the agency. OpenEd creates a platform for those working in the department to share ideas about how to make the department more cost efficient and responsive to the needs of the public. This project helps to increase employee participation and enhance departmental collaboration.
Instilling financial transparency of state’s fiscal spending on education will reduce corruption, one of the points Russia stresses in their open government initiative. This is an unprecedent move of the department to "shine a spotlight" on the flow on funds. This is just an example of how transparency is not only focused on data and accountability, but also on the flow of funds, which will hopefully cut down on corruption and shortfalls within the department.
Although the public education system is not one of the top in the world, the open government initiatives the Department of Education are following can be implemented anywhere because they encourage transparency, participation and collaboration. And nothing terrible can come out of incorporating open government initiatives to education. Therefore, it is disappointing that Russia does not mention how open government policies can be incorporated in their Ministry of Education and Science in their open government action plan, especially since a large chunk of the country's GDP is spent on public education. Adopting open government strategies to education can cut down cost, increase departmental efficiency, and improve the education experience.
Nevertheless, for all these initiatives to work, an investment on public internet access needs to be made so that the people can become more involved in the open government process. By posting the name and emails of officials, the public can send officials questions directly without having to go through a lot of bureaucratic red tape just to make an open on an issue, especially in relations to education. Russia is taking a lot of steps in the right direction. However, addressing ways that open government initiatives can be used to better their education system is not a bad addition to Russia’s open government action plan.