Here is a letter I wrote to the Board of Studies (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I’m not exactly sure who I should address this to, so I hope you can pass it along to the relevant person.
I am writing to ask that the Office of the Board of Studies considers licensing their syllabi and examination materials under an open content license (such as Creative Commons, GNU Free Documentation License or another open content license). Currently the Board’s course syllabi, HSC and SC examinations and Notes from the Marking Centre are licensed in a way that prevents redistribution and derivative works. The current status of the copyright licenses hiders students and teachers ability to use the syllabi and examination materials for study through sharing and collaboration of content.
For example it is to my understanding that students, teachers and anyone else cannot take all the syllabus “dot points” and annotate them with their own content, and republish this for the benefit of others. Similarly the current licence prevents use of syllabus extracts such as “dot points” for collaborative works using modern web tools (such as wiki’s).
Please note that I have published this letter on the internet (http://andrewharvey4.wordpress.com/2009/03/14/a-letter-to-the-board-of-studies-nsw). If you agree to any reply to this letter to be posted online (with credit of course), please let me know otherwise I will not publish any reply.
Thank you for you time,
(Past HSC student, Currently University Student)
In the past week (more like a month now) or so I’ve had a few requests asking me how I got access to my exam scripts (i.e. my exam responses) and how they (having just completed their HSC) could access theirs. In light of this I thought I would explain why I think exam scripts should be accessible to the student.
About a year ago I made a request for my HSC examination scripts under the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW). The process for submitting a FOI request is documented by the Board here. I was granted copies of these documents[my exam scripts]. In the past people have requested things such as raw marks, I did request those too but that was denied for me. You should note that the Board may or may not grant access to these documents in the future.
Now to why I think students should have access to their scripts, which is mainly because it makes the whole process more transparent (even US President Obama is pressing this with his recent FOIA memo). There should be nothing to hide, students should be able to check what they wrote in the exam. They should be able to publish this along with how their response was marked so that it can be scrutinised and studied by future students. I’m not convinced that this is the best study approach in the long term but that is no excuse for disallowing access to scripts. It would also be great if students could also find out how their questions were marked on a question by question basis.
However I can see reasons why the Board would not want to release exam scripts. It is time and money consuming. Even if the process is automated it still costs money and some time. For this I would accept why the Board would charge a reasonable fee for giving you your scripts.
The Board of Studies is doing the right thing here, they did allow my FOI request so I cannot argue that they are hiding them. Kudos to them for this. I hope two things to happen now, more people become aware that they can get their scripts, and the Board continuing to allow these requests.
In the past month or two I’ve been watching and listening some of Lawrence Lessig’s presentations and I’ve got his books on my reading list. I could do a lot of blogging on those topics but I wanted to focus on one particular thing. As I was reading Code v2 it lead me to think about a copyright issue that is close to me. It deals with the fact that the Board of Studies NSW, a government organisation copyrights (with a very restrictive license) its syllabi. These syllabi document what students should learn as part of their secondary state education HSC courses. These syllabi are material that students use as part of their study.
For the purposes of review here is the license that the syllabi are provided under,
“© 2002 Copyright Board of Studies NSW for and on behalf of the Crown in right of the State of New South Wales.
This document contains Material prepared by the Board of Studies NSW for and on behalf of the State of New South Wales. The Material is protected by Crown copyright.
All rights reserved. No part of the Material may be reproduced in Australia or in any other country by any process, electronic or otherwise, in any material form or transmitted to any other person or stored electronically in any form without the prior written permission of the Board of Studies NSW, except as permitted by the Copyright Act 1968. School students in NSW and teachers in schools in NSW may copy reasonable portions of the Material for the purposes of bona fide research or study. Teachers in schools in NSW may make multiple copies, where appropriate, of sections of the HSC papers for classroom use under the provisions of the school’s Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) licence.
When you access the Material you agree:
- to use the Material for information purposes only
- to reproduce a single copy for personal bona fide study use only and not to reproduce any major extract or the entire Material without the prior permission of the Board of Studies NSW
- to acknowledge that the Material is provided by the Board of Studies NSW
- not to make any charge for providing the Material or any part of the Material to another person or in any way make commercial use of the Material without the prior written consent of the Board of Studies NSW and payment of the appropriate copyright fee
- to include this copyright notice in any copy made
- not to modify the Material or any part of the Material without the express prior written permission of the Board of Studies NSW.”
Board of Studies NSW
In my opinion this is absurd! This is depriving students access of material that they require for their studies. This is not a private education institution, this is a government public education system. Students need to know what to study, this document tells students what to study, and as this document is not distributed to students (as in students are not provided a hard copy) the only way they can access it is to copy it, but apparently this is illegal!
The above license does give some rights to school students in NSW (“School students in NSW and teachers in schools in NSW may copy reasonable portions of the Material for the purposes of bona fide research or study.”), but why only school students in NSW, what about publishers who are providing material to help students in their studies (for example an annotated copy)? Also why limit the amount students can copy to “reasonable portions”? So basically students cannot make whole copies of this document to aid in their studies!
Also why can’t anyone remix the document adding their own annotations or commentary and then publish this? And why only for “personal” use? What if I want to provide a remixed copy to anyone who wants it? If the Board is worried that someone may change the document then republish it and someone mistakes this as an official version, then they should not worry. People are not stupid they know that if they want to ensure the reliability of the document they will go to the source. This is not a valid reason for refusing copying of the document.
These documents should be licensed more freely. They should be in-near public domain allowing anyone to do whatever they want with it. I say “near public domain” because I can understand the Board wanting attribution. But apart from that I don’t see any other legal constraint that needs to be placed on these documents. Board of Studies, please consider a license such as the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Australia License.
I welcome comments on this matter.