Why Educational Institutions Should Use and Teach Free Software
"Schools should teach their students to be citizens of a
strong, capable, independent and free society."
These are the main reasons why universities and schools of all
levels should use exclusively Free Software.
Schools should teach the value of sharing by setting an example. Free
software supports education by allowing the sharing of knowledge and
- Knowledge. Many young students have a talent for
programing; they are fascinated with computers and eager to learn how their
systems work. With proprietary software, this information is a secret so
teachers have no way of making it available to their students. But if it is
Free Software, the teacher can explain the basic subject and then hand out
the source code for the student to read and learn.
- Tools. Teachers can hand out to students copies of the
programs they use in the classroom so that they can use them at home. With
Free Software, copying is not only authorized, it is encouraged.
Computing has become an essential part of everyday life. Digital
technology is transforming society very quickly, and schools have an
influence on the future of society. Their mission is to get students
ready to participate in a free digital society by teaching them the
skills to make it easy for them to take control of their own lives.
Software should not be under the power of a software developer who
unilaterally makes decisions that nobody else can change. Educational
institutions should not allow proprietary software companies to impose
their power on the rest of society and its future.
Schools have an ethical responsibility to teach strength, not dependency
on a single product or a specific powerful company. Furthermore, by
choosing to use Free Software, the school itself gains independence from
any commercial interests and it avoids vendor lock-in.
- Proprietary software companies use schools and universities as a
springboard to reach users and thus impose their software on society as
a whole. They offer discounts, or even gratis copies of their proprietary
programs to educational institutions, so that students will learn to use
them and become dependent on them. After these students graduate, neither
them nor their future employers will be offered discounted copies.
Essentially, what these companies are doing is they are recruiting schools
and universities into agents to lead people to permanent lifelong
- Free software licenses do not expire, which means that once Free
Software is adopted, institutions remain independent from the vendor.
Moreover, Free Software licenses grant users the rights not only to
use the software as they wish, to copy it and distribute it, but also
to modify it in order to meet their own needs. Therefore, if
institutions eventually wish to implement a particular function in a
piece of software, they can engage the services of any developer to
accomplish the task, independently from the original vendor.
When deciding where they will study, more and more students are
considering whether a university teaches computer science and software
development using Free Software. Free software means that students are
free to study how the programs work and to learn how to adapt them for
their own needs. Learning about Free Software also helps in studying
software development ethics and professional practice.
This is an obvious advantage that will appeal immediately to many school
administrators, but it is a marginal benefit. The main point of this
aspect is that by being authorized to distribute copies of the programs
at little or no cost, schools can actually aid families facing financial
issues, thus promoting fairness and equal opportunities of learning
Stable, secure and easily installed Free Software solutions are
available for education already. In any case, excellence of performance
is a secondary benefit; the ultimate goal is freedom for computer users.