Frequently Asked Questions About Free Software and Education
Many Free Software advocates encounter difficulties when talking to
the administrators of educational institutions about the advantages of
using and teaching Free Software. Often school administrators have never
heard of Free Software or have heard only about “open source”,
so they raise many doubts. Here we put together some of the most common
questions and the best possible answers to eliminate uncertainties.
- As a teacher, I've been trying hard to explain to the school's
administrators the advantages that open source software can bring to our
school, but they don't seem to be interested.
“Open source” refers only to the technical advantages
of software. Schools may not be interested in that aspect since most
probably technical requirements are already satisfied by the
proprietary software in use. You need to talk to them in terms of
Free Libre Software, not “open source”, so that you can
explain to them the philosophical and ethical reasons why educational
institutions should reject proprietary software.
See the reasons why educational
institutions should use and teach exclusively Free Software.
- I would love to see all schools migrate to Free Software, but I think
it's hopeless. Proprietary software companies have too much power, even
over schools. The situation is discouraging.
While it is true that proprietary software corporations have
managed to impose their products on society by using schools as
propaganda agents, it is also true that many schools around the world
have adopted Free Software with excellent results. See our
Case Studies section for some
When we started the GNU Project back in 1983, the situation was
very discouraging for us too. We started from zero, and today
millions of people around the world use Free Libre Software.
- I am the head of a technical institute and I would like to teach our
students the use and administration of a Free Libre platform, but I have
to comply with the curriculum established by the Ministry of Education,
which requires the teaching of proprietary platforms and programs.
If you are literally forced to teach nonfree software, you should
tell your students that you consider this software unethical, that
you are doing this only because you are being forced, and that you
will do as little of it as possible so that you can move on to
We must not forget that schools have a great influence on society,
so making our students aware of the advantages of Free Software is a
way of putting pressure on decision makers. You can start by telling
your students about Free Software and its ethical values, as they might
never have heard of it. With your endorsement and support, this may
lead to the formation of a Free Software Group
in your school. Then the group can make its voice heard by writing
letters to the Ministry, holding events to promote Free Software, and
other similar activities.
When computer users will start demanding their rights, Governments
will have to issue their laws accordingly. That is why political and
social awareness is a fundamental aspect which cannot be left aside
when talking about Free Software.