foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world

No more Windows at Swiss schools - it's all Ubuntu now

, posted: 10-Apr-2008 08:29

In the past, I wrote about how Russian schools are switching to Linux and about the big cost savings schools can experience when adopting Linux. Now today, news reaches us via The Inquirer that Swiss schools will be exclusively using Ubuntu from now on going forward. Apparently, the 9000 computers in Swiss state schools were Windows/Ubuntu dual-boot so far. But it looks like their Windows partions will be erased now. Good for them! As I said before: Proprietary and vendor specific software has no place in educational organisations.

The article comments on the obvious cost savings, but also about leveling the playing field for those students who might not be able to afford expensive Microsoft software.

I still see very little open source adoption in New Zealand schools, which is regrettable. Does anyone have information to the contrary?

Update: Apparently, Australian schools (at least one of them?) are having some good experiences with it. Also from The Inquirer today is this bit of news here.

Other related posts:
Munich already saved millions by switching to Linux
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Comment by johnr, on 10-Apr-2008 09:15

Glad I don't go to a swiss school!!

Comment by allstarnz, on 10-Apr-2008 12:18

well, as much as open source software can be good, I think there is also a place for Microsoft software within schools. The schools agreement means that the cost of this is not as high as for your average user, in fact they get very good prices.

The developers of software for schools will often make a choice to develop on a Microsoft platform due to many factors, not entirely related to the cost. Why this should restrict this choice of a school becase of the mandated 'utopia' of open source software is where I totally disagree.

NB I am not an employee of Microsoft or have any direct relationship with them. However, I do have an interest in software within schools.

Author's note by foobar, on 10-Apr-2008 12:58

@allstarnz: I don't think it has anything to do with any 'open source utopia'. Did you read the original article? It was specifically mentioned that the use of open source software saves them a lot of money and it helps students that cannot afford Microsoft software. Besides those points, for me it's mostly three factors, which make me think that open source should be the logical choice for shools.

1. Proprietary software in schools is entirely unnecessary. Why pay for proprietary software when you don't need it? What do schools have students do with their computers? Research stuff on the Internet? Write some documents or make presentations? Learn how to program? All of these things are perfectly possible with open source software. So... what again is the reason to pay for proprietary software in schools?

2. Not every student has to become a programmer, or course. But if you DO want to teach students more than just how to use a product, but rather teach them to explore and dive into a system to learn more, then open source again is the logical choice.

3. I don't believe it is the job of the schools to train students in the usage of a particular vendor's products. For example, just because OpenOffice is a little bit different than Word doesn't mean that schools can only use Word. In fact, exposing students to an alternative can actually only broaden their horizon and make them realise that things this particular vendor's products are not a synonym for 'computers' or 'word processing'. Once they enter the workforce, they will be exposed to Microsoft products soon enough. Having seen an alternative before that will definitely further their understanding.

Comment by BobW, on 10-Apr-2008 13:01

Without meaning to start a flame war about MS vs Linux, I see this move as generally a bad idea.Part of the reason for kids to use computers at school is for them to learn some practical computing skills that they can then use during further education and/or in the workplace.

Like it or not, most computers (especially in work environments) use a MS operating system and associated applications. To limit the kids' exposure to Ubuntu at school will put them at a disadvantage relative to kids who have exposure to a wider range of operating systems and applications.

Surely it would be better to have them use Windows, one or more Linux distros, and some Macs for good measure. But to exclude the most common platform seems to be a case of ideology over practicality, with the kids getting a poorer education as a result.

Author's note by foobar, on 10-Apr-2008 13:16

@BobW: I think the problem is that schools (or larger organisations in general) like to standardise on one platform if they can. This means for support contracts they only need to deal with one vendor, and they only need to hire IT staff with one set of qualifications.

While I appreciate your point about Windows being the most widely used platform, and what you said about the job-market related skills, I also have to say (see my previous comment) that it shouldn't be the job of schools to teach product specific knowledge. Instead, they should teach principles. If you have used OpenOffice for a while, and know the principles of word processing, what it takes to make a good presentation (which is completely product independent), and what to do with a spread sheet (also product independent), do you really think that a student will have much difficulty picking up how to do that with MS Office at a later time?

Also, don't forget that even Microsoft changes the interfaces of their software. If someone trained on Word 97 (or whatever it is) and they now are exposed to Word 2007, do you think they will not be greatly surprised? These students that we are talking about here haven't even gone to university or college yet. Before they enter the workforce, Microsoft will have changed their interface many times over. I don't think at all that any one of these students will experience any disadvantage at all because of this.

And finally: Seeing diversity in action is probably the best outcome. But what we normally see is Microsoft-only in schools, so there is no exposure to diversity either. But then, if I run Linux, I can run OpenOffice, then KWord and then AbiWord and show students quickly how different user interfaces feel like.

Comment by Efraim, on 11-Apr-2008 03:56

This is great news. I have switched to Linux last year. I have noticed that my own three kids, now prefer to use linux for browsing and working, they have kept their dual boot with windows just for some games. Linux is just quicker and safer (and waay cheaper) than windows and all its proprietary programs.

I believe that schools that use linux exclusively are doing the right move, economically, didactically and ethically (I think this will be the first time many students will not be using pirated software in their lives!).

I hope that schools all over Europe, encouraged by this clever swiss move, will do the same.

Comment by Neff, on 24-Apr-2008 00:04

I'm swiss GNU/Linux user and I've to say that unfortunately these news are incorrect.

So, when speaking about Switzerland please remember that this is a country composed from 26 independent states (cantons)... we're a federal state by definition, the first federal state in Europe and maybe in the world (Switzerland was born in 1291).

Every State has his own policy for public education, so if some state implement an open source solution (The canton of Geneva made it) this doesn't absolutely means that every cantons will do the same thing. Every state has its own school system so we have 26 different school systems.

The fact that Geneva decided to introduce ubuntu in schools surely is a first step in the right direction but the fight is far to be over!

Thank you and sorry for my bad english ;)


(from Lugano, Ticino, Switzerland)

Comment by Joolz, on 10-Aug-2008 05:39

I work in a semi educational environment, and have lots of school leavers come to me seeking employment. Unfortunately the large problem seems to me to be that an IT qualification from a school doesn't mean anything of the sort. All it means is that they have used some proprietary software to do limited things like make a presentation or write a letter.

I like to test their actual grasp of computers by sitting them down at a Linux computer and setting them some simple tasks. Around 10% work it out for themselves, the others are all looking for the "microsoft crutch" of the wizard tools.

I feel that schools who operate only microsoft applications are cheating their students and denying them the skills they will need. Anybody can click a button and follow a wizard which does it all for them. That isn't teaching, it is advertising.. there is a subtle difference.

Comment by Ashish Barot, on 3-Dec-2008 08:11

Hi All,

If people will not start using Open Source today, then there is no other alternative for them after 1-2 years.

They must have to use Open Source Software.

We can See with Open EYES,

We can Listen with Open EARS,

Then why not to use Open Source.

GNU/Linux is best distribution for Children to learn software with freedom.

We dont have to teach them to reinstall OS, software everytime, we must have to teach them how you can solve your problem by looking into software's code and debgu it.

Then and then only "CAN DO attitude" will be grow inside them from their childhood.

Hope we start from today....

All the BEST.


Ashish Barot.

Comment by Stewpot, on 15-Apr-2011 00:14

My school spends nearly £15,000 pounds a year on licenses to microsoft.

I think they should switch one of the computer rooms to linux and run a few windows servers with photoshop and useful windows programs that you can thin client with. You could alternate computer rooms each week in your I.C.T lesson so that students get a taste of both.

This way you'd experience more operating systems and reduce the cost greatly.

foobar's profile

New Zealand

  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
  • Where I have been: Here and there, all over the place.

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