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.
- 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 examples.
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 freedom-respecting software.
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.