Microsoft on its way out from schools in Kerala

The Government of Kerala (my state in India) has passed a ruling that public schools in the state will base their computer curriculum entirely on Linux. Initially the idea was to give schools the option to choose between Microsoft and Linux, but later this was narrowed down to limiting any Microsoft related topics to that of migrating to Linux from Windows based operating systems. The state is currently ruled by a leftist party, and the leaders of the party are strong proponents of open source software, specially after a couple of visits by Richard Stallman in the last few years.

Now, personally, I feel that Linux is an excellent choice as an OS platform in high schools. It comes with an entire set of development tools, and while Microsoft gives away free editions of its compiler IDEs (the Express editions), they are limited in functionality, and the C++ version of the Express editions does not even support a resource editor. Also, the Linux OS comes with complete source code, and as a student, there can be nothing more exciting than to dig into the OS source code. And lastly, there are no installation costs for Linux (compared to Microsoft, even accounting for academic discounts). And in schools, there won’t be much of a maintenance cost either, because every school will have a few Linux geeks who’d help with maintaining the school network.

But, I still strongly disapprove of the decision to totally ban Microsoft software from schools. Kids should still have a choice, and they need to know that there are other options outside of Linux. By restricting them forcibly to a particular OS, without their explicit (or implicit for that matter) permission, you are virtually diminishing their chances of going into a successful professional career based on Microsoft products. The smarter geekier kids would obviously find their own way, and make their own choices, and would probably have multi-boot systems at home. It’s the ordinary kids that are doomed to a narrow career path due to a decision that was made by a short sighted government.

What’s ironic is that, just as RMS is losing popularity with most of the open source world, he’s gaining it in Kerala. And for all his principles of freedom, that’s the one thing that he’s helped to take away from Kerala’s school children – the freedom of choice. :hmmm:

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14 thoughts on “Microsoft on its way out from schools in Kerala

  1. “every school will have a few Linux geeks who’d help with maintaining the school network”

    I’m not sure that is a good idea in a school. What is to stop the “Linux geeks” from doing other stuff if they have that level of control. Quick things I can think of: give themselves better marks on files in a teacher’s folder, install network sniffers, wipe out their rival’s work, etc. Networks and assests should not be uner the purview of “geeks” – instead it should be maintained by serious and experienced personnel.

  2. Students will have an excellent career if they use the full version of Microsoft Products instead of the free tools.
    When I was a school student, I didn’t get any computer education. But my sister had. She’s in 12th now. She used to ask me some doubts on office systems and programming. Actually I wondered that how Govt. of Kerala handling the huge amount of office products and OS costs.

    As Nish said, there is not need to spend high cost for windows products when Linux is readily available with a lot of tools.
    There are two modes existing there
    1. How to use computers and some necessary softwares like Spreadsheet, Word processor, Internet etc.
    2. The next one is programming, they are actually teaching C++/C which is not Microsoft specific technologies.

    There are very few difference for in running a C++ program in Linux and Windows. In the schools they are not teaching internals of operating systems. They need to familiar with the use of operating system and other Softwares.

    So I strongly recommend Linux in Schools.

    In the private schools, they are charging enough money from the students itself for setting up the lab.

    So for the time being “Open source zindabad”

  3. The idea of teaching computing at school is not get some one trained in one OS or the other. It’s to get them understand the fundamentals of computing like word processors, spread sheets and programming. This is where I disagree with Nish

    <quote>By restricting them forcibly to a particular OS, without their explicit (or implicit for that matter) permission, you are virtually diminishing their chances of going into a successful professional career based on Microsoft products. </quote>

    How do you diminish a child’s career later in his life, if they use gcc for the rudimentary programs they learn in school? They are hardly writing kernel code in school to be locked into one OS. Do you want the school childern to use Developer Studio (or what ever the name of MS IDE) to learn helloworld.c? How difficult will it be to use MS Word if they have studied using Openoffice?

    Let’s say they learn C using turbo C and dos [just like we all did in college], would that make it any easy for them to get a successful professional career based on Microsoft products.

    The idea of GoK is to use minimum money to get the necessery tools for education and in that respect this is a good step forward.

    The real battle is not for dev tools, but for mind share. People will learn that there are other alternatives to Microsoft and MS Office, That’s what is scaring Microsoft.

    and btw I found this quote amusing

    <quote> What’s ironic is that, just as RMS is losing popularity with most of the open source world, he’s gaining it in Kerala. And for all his principles of freedom, that’s the one thing that he’s helped to take away from Kerala’s school children – the freedom of choice </quote>

    Freedom of choice 🙂 Such a nice term, only problem is that MS always thinks about it when they are on loosing side, just like in Digital Media 🙂

    raj

  4. The blog removed the quote tags I put around 2 quotes from Nish’s original posting. So pl imagine that there are quote marks around 2 paras I have quoted from original blog.

    raj

  5. Most of the time people go to school for learning basic stuff. School isn’t meant to tell you about technology. So if they set up systems that helps people learn more about basics of OS, it’s great. If Microsoft is banned, it is banned. What technology will people work on doesn’t matter when you are in school. More often than not, the stuff you learnt in school is going to be outdated by the time you start working. So how does it matter? So even if the Government is being narrow minded, I don’t think it matters as much.

  6. I agree with your views, quite unfortunate though. Depriving kids of something that “you” think is good for them is definitely lessening the choice & experience offered. Sigh, Kerala folks act rather bizarre many times. Its almost like we don’t want opportunities sometimes!

  7. I am not sure why Everyone is crying foul . In much of the research academia and in most of the US universities UNIX is the platform and they run lof of FREE as in freedom software. This has not in anyway limited their growth or potential . In fact most of the people in Microsoft and in major software companies in the planet were once users of Linux . Did Steve Swartz the architect of WCF use MS products in college. I believe if Linux works out to cost advantageousness and open to experimentation by all means Kerala should follow that !

  8. From a maintenance standpoint, if I as the school administrator can set up a single system and secure and patch it myself from a central place by myself or maybe with 1-2 assistants, while still providing 2500+ apps in all areas of education etc for free, it’s a no brainer.

    Wny pay Microsoft license fees for every windows install and the apps and have to maintain all those terminals when I can set up 1-2 linux servers and dish out all the free apps directly? If I were a government / school / etc providing some publicly funded feature I’d switch to open source client server in a heartbeat.

    Think of it : Ubuntu compatible with Amazon’s cloud (= future ready), GIMP, Open Office, Blender, oodles of dev tools (python, Java, c++, etc etc), MySQL, Audacity, for free? This covers not just docs and spreadsheets, it’s 3D modelling, music/sound/video, databases, networking, security, etc.

    Why would anyone buy s/w? For support perhaps, but how often do you ask MS for word support? Never, cos they charge for that too.
    Another thing to consider: as others have said, C++ ain’t MS, it’s everyone. Facebook ain’t MS. Google ain’t MS. VOIP ain’t MS despite them buying Skype. Cloud ain’t MS though they’re trying to get in there too. The underlying technology is not the vendor of one version of that technology.

    And if you’re funded by taxes on the people, you want those $$ to go as far as they can. Throwing them at already wealthy MS doesn’t really help anyone except MS…

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