The advantages of Free Software in education

Teaching IT as a school subject in its own right

For far too long, IT has been viewed within the French National Education system as a practical skill, and has been reduced to mere user’s training. Of course, not all students aspire to a career in computing, yet it is essential that each one get some understanding of the mechanisms and of what is at stake, in order to be able to claim the digital world for him- or herself rather than being subjected to it. IT should be taught as a school subject in its own right, providing students with the capacity to understand, and adapt to the different situations they will encounter in their personal and professional lives. Free Software is the only one that fully allows this, precisely because it is open and can be studied, modified, and shared.

Accessing the source code to understand

Free Software and open formats have a full role to play in education, since the latter is not supposed to favour this or that provider of proprietary solutions. Under the cover of preparing students for the software products they will encounter in their professional life, current practices reinforce monopolies, and persist in transmitting ready-made recipes rather than teaching self-sufficiency. Yet office automation is, by far, not the only IT system one encounters in professional life, and everyone will need to adapt to technological changes throughout their career.

Sharing educational resources

Using open formats and licensing educational resources under a free license enables everyone to share and improve those resources, thereby contributing to the development of a more ethical education. Free Software can be distributed without restriction, thus allowing teachers to find more resources, and create their own educational materials, like, for instance, the Sesamath worksheets, the result of an exemplary collaborative effort by math teachers and published under a free license.