“Those corporations offer free samples (of software) to schools for the same reason tobacco companies distribute free cigarettes to minors: to get children addicted. They will not give discounts to these students once they’ve grown up and graduated.”
-Richard Stallman, founder of free software movement
There are numerous reasons why every educational institution must use free software. In fact, proprietary software is incompatible with education because users are just inert consumers and are legally restricted from examining its source code. Education using computers should be free. Recommended reading- 6 Secrets: why people hate using free open source software.
Many people believe that teaching students to use proprietary software will increase the students’ potential to learn, to get jobs and other opportunities. But for the proprietary software vendors, education is a major source of revenue and a huge opportunity to acquaint future adults with their product and keep their dominance on the market forever. They spend huge amount of money on marketing to acquire the support of educational departments.
Here I am not forgetting the fact that sometimes proprietary software will be powerful and reliable. But it does not respect the users’ freedom. Software can be said to serve its users only if it respects their freedom. But it used to add malicious features, such as spying on the users, restricting the users, and imposed upgrades, etc. (Recommended reading- Top 10 reasons to use free software)Moreover, some of the US states even boast that they cooperate with proprietary software vendors like Microsoft by accepting freebies with or without understanding the harmful effects of using proprietary software in society.
If you are still looking for reasons why you should use free software instead of proprietary, read this before continuing.
On the other hand free software is a gateway for students to explore and learn. And yes, without teaching proprietary software on your schools you can still create potential to learn and provide better job opportunities. Here is the case study of migration to Free Software from an Indian State, Kerala. Recommended reading- 5 Free Operating System Alternative for Windows
How to Migrate to Free Software- Case Study
Kerala was the first state in India to introduce Information Technology as a compulsory subject of study at the High School level. It was started in class 8 with the textbook introducing Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. But within one year the government was forced to include Free Software also in the curriculum due to the protests of Free Software enthusiasts and a favorable stance taken by a school teachers association that had the majority of government teachers as its members. After a year, only GNU/Linux was taught in the schools, and all computers in schools had only GNU/Linux installed. At that time, perhaps even today, this was the largest installation of GNU/Linux in schools, and made headlines around the World.
4 Simple Tips for Migration
Here are some important steps that Kerala has taken in order to discourage the use of proprietary software.
1. Never accept free samples from proprietary vendors
Free software can save schools money. But proprietary software vendors used to donate copies of software to the school. A school that accepts such an offer may have to pay for upgrades later. Those corporations offer free samples to schools for the same reason tobacco companies distribute free cigarettes to minors: to get children addicted. They will not give discounts to these students once they’ve grown up and graduated.
2. Talk about philosophy, not just the benefits using free software
There are tons of benefits using free software. But apart from the benefits of using free software talk about philosophy. The most fundamental job of schools is to teach good citizenship, which includes the habit of helping others. In computing, this means teaching people to share software. The first step in using a computer with proprietary software is to promise not to help the neighbors. A cooperating community was forbidden. The rule made by the owners of proprietary software was, “If you share with your neighbor, you are a pirate. If you want any changes, beg us to make them.”
Instead schools must encourage their students sharing the software and cultivate good habit by telling “You must share your software with the other students. If someone wants to learn how it is made, then go through the source code and learn its architecture.”
Free software gives freedom to study how the program works by accessing the source code, allows writing the code, testing it, modifying it and distributing it. The source code is notavailable for proprietary software.
3. Provide training courses for teachers
It is harder for teachers if they are not comfortable with the usability of new Free Operating System. So provide training courses for teachers to familiar with the basics of the new Free Operating System.
4. Bring awareness by free software group
Attending free software meetings help to work in close connection with the Free Software community. The commitment and the collaboration of teachers, students and local groups were essential to the success of this project.Migration from Proprietary to Free Software- a Case Study