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UK Schools Told to Dump Microsoft

timothy posted more than 8 years ago | from the reasonable-course-of-action dept.

Education 646

kubla2000 writes "The current issue of the Times Educational Supplement is running an article in which they cite a report by the British Educational Communications and Technology Association telling primary and secondary schools in the UK to dump Microsoft Operating systems and products in order to save millions. In a report to be published next week, obtained by The TES, Becta will highlight schools which have turned to free software instead of the market leader's products. Becta does not name Microsoft in its analysis. But almost all schools use some of the company's products. Their conclusion? Schools running OSS are saving 24% on average per pc versus those running proprietary systems."

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Discount (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475061)

I bet they're are looking to get a sweet deal from Microsoft by threatening this...

Re:Discount (1)

DenDave (700621) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475099)

Wouldn't be the first time. It happens all the time. A big client "rumours" they're ditching and Microsoft comes along with massive discounts. In many instances there isn't even a plan to migrate, just a rumour..

Re:Discount (3, Interesting)

MoonFog (586818) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475124)

But aren't schools already getting a significant discount? How much lower can Microsoft go before they give it away to schools?

Re:Discount (4, Insightful)

dnixon112 (663069) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475180)

Probably not much lower. But I'm sure MS would give it away for free if it meant keeping people locked in.

Re:Discount (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475215)

I don't know how much lower they can go :) , but think of it this way: how much can Microsoft PAY the schools for using their products? When all the students are using their products, it's not like the only benefit they get is simply money from the licenses. Things get rather complicated.

Re:Discount (3, Insightful)

Xrikcus (207545) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475346)

What's wrong with free? Works for universities.

Well... sometimes it works, anyway. We in my CS dept are still using win2000, apparently because MS hasn't given us XP and we have no intention of paying for it. The tactic hasn't worked for us yet... but then, it doesn't really harm us either.

Re:Discount (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475146)

"They're are?" Man, I need to lay off the coffee.

Great opportunity for OSS (4, Interesting)

Kinky Bass Junk (880011) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475073)

Wow, this will be a great oportunity for OSS to snap up another user base. Not only will it save a lot of money for the schools, but this will more than likely result in more users seeing the wonders of free software, and converting themselves. Would be good if they openly condemned Windows though :P

Re:Great opportunity for OSS (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475174)

The problem is that there is no OSS software out there that is really ready for the desktop - well none that would be suitable for use in schools. Schools get Windows software very cheaply due to bulk licensing and educational discounts so when one looks at the TCO its pretty easy to see that the cost to change to OSS is undesirable.

Re:Great opportunity for OSS (4, Insightful)

Xrikcus (207545) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475326)

Not suitable for use in schools? What do you think schoolkids do on the computers? Everything I ever did in a school IT lesson I could have done in an out of the box linux distro at the time, even more so now. Possible that some of the circuit design software for design tech might be missing... but then we had old Acorn machines still running for that very reason anyway and then had a few dedicated windows machines installed running just that, for the majority of school computers linux is just fine. Based on the UK National Curriculum at any rate, which is what matters for this.

Does it all come down to money (4, Insightful)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475075)

Just recommending dumping one supplier of software simply to save money is a worry.

Is our school's education all related to money? do we just want to make it cheaper?

Or make it truly better. As much as I don't like Microsoft maybe there are situations where their software is best.

Just saying to dump them because of cost to save 24% sounds appealing at a first glance, but then replacing teachers with babysitters at half the wages would save 50%.

But it's not doing much good for the kids. Maybe a less broad "Microsoft is 100% evil" attitude would help the kids. Their the ones learning

Re:Does it all come down to money (1, Insightful)

Kinky Bass Junk (880011) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475109)

How will keeping software in the domain of a monopoly improve the education of young minds? It just re-enforces consumerist behaviour by the students, and perpetuates the stranglehold Microsoft holds over the home user market. Bring on the condemnation.

Re:Does it all come down to money (5, Insightful)

Saven Marek (739395) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475126)

But its not a all one or all the other thing.

The report says to dump microsoft. What happens when microsoft do make the best tool for the job? It seems too broad to me.

Maybe linux is good for 80% of things and MS good for 20%. maybe the other way around or some other combination. Is it certain that open source software is always the best use for our kids? always? without fail and no MS ever again?

Re:Does it all come down to money (1)

Kinky Bass Junk (880011) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475154)

Is it certain that open source software is always the best use for our kids? always? without fail and no MS ever again? I can say as a hardcore Commie bastard, yes.

Re:Does it all come down to money (3, Funny)

sunspot42 (455706) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475191)


What happens when microsoft do make the best tool for the job?

Hell freezes over.

Re:Does it all come down to money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475268)

Partly that would be MS's fault. They have a massive margin on retail, but you get steep discounts if you go all MS. Also MS systems tend only to work well with MS systems. Doesn't like heterogenous systems (the homo!).

Therefore, the second-best may be overall better if you can save 24% costs and get "good enough". If MS were more prepared to interoperate, then they could get the 5% share that they are the best fit for.

Re:Does it all come down to money (2, Interesting)

strider44 (650833) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475369)

In reality it probably is though. Microsoft don't make software for other x86 operating systems (I assume linux is the choise here), so if you dump Windows then you tend to dump Microsoft totally. Also Microsoft would be quite unlikely to give the same bulk discounts that they are currently giving the schools if the schools aren't actually buying their entire software package.

best tool for job. (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475388)

Is it certain that open source software is always the best use for our kids? always? without fail and no MS ever again?

If the target is to make the student to prepare to work for business you might want to consider having Ms-word on you skill's list. You can use O.source software to do a lot of jobs, but you don't find it in regualr business a lot.

Big company are still using windows NT4 (banks even use some OS/2). It will take some time before open software becomes mainstraim.

Re:Does it all come down to money (2, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475444)


The report says to dump microsoft. What happens when microsoft do make the best tool for the job? It seems too broad to me.


How about this:

Dump Microsoft OS, and if Microsoft comes out with any good tools that are really the best tool possible for something the school needs, to buy the software once Microsoft makes it available for the OS the school is using? Sounds fine to me.

Saying "we must keep buying new windows operating systems, because what if in the future microsoft comes out with that killer up we have to have?" is crazy. And if you think you can keep your old windows operating system and still make use of that new program, you're naieve or insane.

Re:Does it all come down to money (0, Offtopic)

CountBrass (590228) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475130)

Their(sic) the ones learning
Hopefully one of the things they'll be learning is the difference between "their", "there" and "they're"!

Re:Does it all come down to money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475135)

>maybe there are situations where [Microsoft] software is best.

In education? Doubt it. What would those be?

Re:Does it all come down to money (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475242)

"Just saying to dump them because of cost to save 24% sounds appealing at a first glance, but then replacing teachers with babysitters at half the wages would save 50%."

They already did that. Now they're simply replacing the babysitters with ones that save additional 24%.

This is a joke, of course.

Re:Does it all come down to money (4, Insightful)

nacturation (646836) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475264)

Want to really save money? Dump computers altogether in elementary schools. I didn't get involved with computers until grade 7, and even then it was a real stretch of the imagination -- a single LOGO class was about it. Even in high school, computers weren't all that prevalent until grade 11. As a result, I had to learn things the old fashioned way -- by figuring it out on my own without a computer doing it for me. I think things turned out fairly well as a result and my interest in computers carried me the rest of the way. Do kids these days even know multiplication tables without reaching for their cell phone's calculator app?

Re:Does it all come down to money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475392)

Well. More power to you then. I guess that stoneage man figured out things without the help of pen-and-paper either. Does that mean his knowledge was superior to your's?
Less isn't more.

Re:Does it all come down to money (2, Interesting)

CrackedButter (646746) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475406)


Your post should be given full merit but... a lot of jobs today require computers unlike in the past. You didn't suggest it, but I think computer use should be scaled back alltogether, used sparingly and not thrown around as though it will solve all of educations problems. I'm at college and even there we have to do it the old fashioned way before we touch the various rooms full of lovely powermacs, macs, emacs and various scanners or even the college network. The understanding is that you must be able to perform without a computer first, though it is simply a tool just like a paintbrush or T-square, abeit more complicated however.
If they teach this at A-level (but I do a Art and Design course) then that thinking should be carried down to secondary and primary schools as well.

Re:Does it all come down to money (1)

gmac63 (12603) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475272)

Is our school's education all related to money? do we just want to make it cheaper?

From my experience (in America), monetary issues account for 90% of a school system's (collection of schools in a region)business. Only the teachers and principals are concerned with the welfare of the student's education.

Or make it truly better. As much as I don't like Microsoft maybe there are situations where their software is best.

Agreed. Unfortunately, but this is true.

Just saying to dump them because of cost to save 24% sounds appealing at a first glance, but then replacing teachers with babysitters at half the wages would save 50%.

If American schools could do this, they would. BTW, I wouldn't go around suggesting this to anyone (wink wink, nod nod).

Re:Does it all come down to money (2)

strider44 (650833) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475322)

would you rather have Microsoft on your computers or have both Linux on your computers + a few extra teachers? There's always a bit of a trade-off, and I think that not spending money wisely is even worse for the educational system.

Re:Does it all come down to money (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475375)

I'm a recent victim of the UK secondary education process. Computing lessons consist of four main things.
  • Learning a lot of facts by heart. It's all very well knowing about address buses and data buses, but you're not taught anything more than their existance and a set of properties prescribed in the syllabus. No actual understanding is expected, nor achieved.
  • Learning how to use "productivity software", i.e. how to type and make a spreadsheet add up numbers. Advanced students do a mail merge and a lookup table, and may be allowed to follow a worksheet in Access.
  • Simpistic programming for those who master Office. Basically console apps that ask a user for a number and do something to it. Occasional usage of Visual Basic to replace the command prompt with a text box and button.
  • Playing Aliens versus Predator on the school network.
The government's desire to get exam pass rates up and up is rendering computing education - and most other subjects too - essentially worthless. But it does keep a load of teenagers off the unemployment figures, which is what's important here. Dumping MS for open source alternatives just lets them do it cheaper.

Started off right (2, Insightful)

Tharald (444591) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475387)

I'm with you through the second sentence... Education is not all related to money. There are other concerns, the most important ones are:
-how well does it facilitate people learning?
-does it provide an environment that is open to advancements and does not lock you in?

Of course there are basic requirements like being able to perform the required tasks, and cost related issues, but aside from these issues, open source beats MS on all fronts.

Good (5, Interesting)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475079)

Once schools are teaching how to use Free software, then businesses will no longer be able to use the bogus argument "but that's what they teach in schools" as a reason to stick with Microsoft.

Schools should not be Microsoft training centres anyway. We pay for schools with our Council Tax, and this particular Council Tax payer resents having my hard-earned spent on consolidating a foreign monopoly.

Re:Good (5, Insightful)

blowdart (31458) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475129)

Nor should schools be a place to push an OSS agenda simply because it's OSS.

Schools should, in theory, be pushing what is best for the pupil, not what is cheapest. So whilst there is an argument for using free software to teach, for example, programming, a course which teachs pupils spreadsheets or word processing could, arguably be using the most widespread software.

Oh and the article title isn't exactly truthful. "Told to Dump Microsoft" makes it sound like it's an order from on high; it's not. It's a recommendation, not a government mandate.

Re:Good (4, Insightful)

bhalo05 (865352) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475204)

So whilst there is an argument for using free software to teach, for example, programming, a course which teachs pupils spreadsheets or word processing could, arguably be using the most widespread software.

Why? They should teach a generic use of a word processor, I doubt the goal it's about becoming an expert in an especific product. Then why should they teach expensive programs that students possibly can not afford to use at home legally or share between them?

Re:Good (1)

blowdart (31458) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475263)

I doubt the goal it's about becoming an expert in an especific product.

Now that would depend on the course wouldn't it? Consistency is probably the most important. These days UK schools get very little freedom over what they teach, the curriculum is set by central government. There would be the place to start persuasion, if the materials produced show OSS examples then the spread would be quicker.

However, schools should be teaching what's best, not what's cheapest. Switching because it's cheaper is not, in my opinion, a valid reason.

Re:Good (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475286)

However, if the course is "Use GIMP" rather than "Image Manipulation with computers", then that is no worse than "Use MS Word" rather than "Document presentation on computers". Except GIMP is free and MS Word costs a lot.

Re:Good (1)

DiamondGeezer (872237) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475421)

Microsoft sell student/teacher licenses for MS Office that are a fraction of the full retail price. I don't think that for students, cost is that much of an issue.

There is also no such thing as a "generic wordprocessor". MS Office, rightly or wrongly, sets the company standards for most businesses. It should be taught in schools and colleges as a key skill for employment

I don't agree with MS's business practices, nor its monopolization in software, but children are not best served by denying them the skills they're most likely to use in work.

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

ajs318 (655362) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475402)

So whilst there is an argument for using free software to teach, for example, programming, a course which teachs pupils spreadsheets or word processing could, arguably be using the most widespread software.
Because OpenOffice.org writer, KWord, Abiword and others all have the typing keys laid out totally different from MS Word, don't they?! And OpenOffice.org calc, KSpread and Gnumeric not only have the number keys in completely different places from MS Excel, but use different symbols for the common mathematical operations!

Oh, wait, no, they don't. QWERTY keyboard, numbers in the same place, + for add, - for subtract.

There's also a compelling argument to be made against using any kind of WYSIWYG word processing: it encourages you to think too hard about the rendering at the expense of the content. Not many people can be both a calligrapher and a poet .....

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

Biogenesis (670772) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475424)

Exactly, I'm currently at Sydney University and so far I've used Linux in 4 subjects, and Windows in 1. Namely I've been tought C, concurrency in Java and some networking intro stuff (simple signals in MATLAB) on Solaris systems through the IT department, and I did a computational physics unit in MATLAB under RH8 systems (I think they ditched windows and optical mice just so they could get 17" LCDs :D). The only time I've used a windows machine was when learning MATLAB through the engineering faculty, which for some reason don't have any Linux machines...that I've seen (ok, I know there fileservers are running Solaris 8, but I'm not meant to know that).

Anyway, my point is that the university seems to be doing a good job training technical people (programmers, physics, oh and I used some Unix True 64 (whatever that is) dumb X terminals in a maths unit...again using MATLAB :p) that windows is not the only way.

I think most of that was just random babble...meh, I'm too drunk to care :p.

Fiscal geek writes... (2, Informative)

dipfan (192591) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475441)

We pay for schools with our Council Tax

Except we don't quite - only about 25% of UK school funding comes from council tax via local education authorities, and much less than that in some parts of the UK such as Wales (about 15%+). The rest comes from general taxation via central government. But one way or the other the taxpayer ends up sending big cheques to MS, so your point is valid.

Chicken or the Egg? (3, Interesting)

gotpaint32 (728082) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475097)

The issue at hand is really a "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" question. Though some may argue otherwise, schools exist to educate young people and prepare them for their eventual dilbert-like status in the the cubicle. So if these student all learn linux and open office and who knows what else the schools might be offering instead of M$, then what will they do when their prospective employer asks, do you know how to use word, access, powerpoint, excel, xp, the list goes on. Is this a safe bet, and who should adopt what first.

Re:Chicken or the Egg? (1)

Trillan (597339) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475127)

Well, I would hope they would answer "No, but I've got experience with blah, blah and blah." To which a reasonable employer would say "Hey, that's good general computing experience." If the job involved a lot of Microsoft Office, he might add "Can you take an evening course over at $(LOCALCOLLEGE)?

Yes, I know it's a little naive. :) Still, I got my job without spending a minute in Microsoft Office before.

Re:Chicken or the Egg? (1)

strider44 (650833) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475386)

If the job involved a lot of Microsoft Office, he might add "Can you take an evening course over at $(LOCALCOLLEGE)?

Gee, I wonder if you are on the MS side or the OSS side?

Re:Chicken or the Egg? (2, Insightful)

tehshen (794722) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475138)

OpenOffice, MS Office, AbiWord etc. are all pretty similar, so it should not be too hard to work out how to use another product; even when the students in question have not learned how to use MS Office directly, they have learned how to use a generic office suite, and could probably pick up MS Office in a day or two, if required.

The chicken and the egg thing doesn't really matter, what matters is that some party is going open source, and more should follow.

Re:Chicken or the Egg? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475162)

>what will they do when their prospective employer asks

I'd go for "Are you fucking kidding?"

Re:Chicken or the Egg? (1)

bVork (772426) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475171)

Intelligent people tend to be able to quickly learn multiple programs that perform similar tasks in similar ways.

As an aside, an interesting counter to your argument are the school districts in my area - up until about four years ago, Macs were used almost exclusively.

Chicken on face? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475189)

I have this exact problem. In school we were only given LUMOCOLOR pens. Now when I look for work and they ask me if I know how to use Blic pens I just break down and cry. I blame my education for my inability to adapt to change. I think schools should do something about this!!

Re:Chicken or the Egg? (3, Insightful)

torpor (458) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475210)

Computer competency does not come from learning one app, and one app alone. It does not come from restrictive interface to a single tool.

Computers are utterly arbitrary machines.. software only works when people agree on the way software should work, and then use it.

For schools to be shifting focus from Microsft to OSS is a good thing, because it highlights, yet again, the reality of computers, in that they are only as good as the things you use them for.

I for one welcome our future generations of computer-using students whose competence on computers will have been refined as a result of the shift as much as the actual software used .. anyone who has been in the computer realm longer than a couple of decades should surely know, by now, that computers are a rapidly spinning barrel upon which no man should try to stand .. true competence comes from the ability to learn AND USE X, and/or Y, and/or Z to get some computing job done, not from 'having learned A, and only A, and very rarely B to do only one particular job, ever' ...

Re:Chicken or the Egg? (1)

s_wardman (696436) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475340)

"Chicken or the egg?" does seem to be the general consensus in schools. There are two major factors that count for this:

  1. Schools target their education at the industry, (the majority of) the industry uses Microsoft applications.
  2. Teachers are already familiar with Microsoft applications. Teacher training is done with Microsoft applications. Teachers are reluctant to change, re-learn, re-train. Re-training costs.

On a higher note, at least two schools I know have dual boot Windows and Linux. The main problem we have is getting them to cooperate, after all, both will be around for a bit, so pupils (and teachers) should probably learn both.

Another Dupe (0, Redundant)

Maddog Batty (112434) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475100)

Another Dupe [slashdot.org] from a few days back.

Same article and all...

When will slashdot editors use the search button?

erm, no it doesn't (4, Informative)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475128)

BECTA don't recommend dumping anyone, let alone naming Microsot. They instead recommend that savings can be made by looking towards Free (as in beer) solutions.

Ahem, how about reading the article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475223)

"Becta does not name Microsoft in its analysis. But almost all schools use some of the company's products. Their conclusion? Schools running OSS are saving 24% on average per pc versus those running proprietary systems."

Re:Ahem, how about reading the article? (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475248)

I was referring to the title, which is complete bollocks, as we say in Britain.

Re:Ahem, how about reading the article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475269)

"I was referring to the title, which is complete bollocks, as we say in Britain."

Well, it isn't really, if you consider that "almost all schools use some of the company's products". Complete bollocks, no, sensationalist, definately.

Re:Ahem, how about reading the article? (1)

REBloomfield (550182) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475311)

possibly, but School's have not been 'told' to do anything, BECTA have made a recommendation in a report.

Obvious (5, Insightful)

scottme (584888) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475149)

If the objective is simply to teach kids the basics of how computers work, what an operating system does, and what can be achieved with a word processor, a spreadsheet, or a database program, then OSS is perfectly adequate to the task. Given that Free software can easily at least match the basic capabilities of proprietary non-Free offerings, it is surely pretty obvious that there should be no real need to spend large amounts on licenses for proprietary software.

However, don't overlook the wider politics of the matter. To some degree, what employers want is a trained workforce (as opposed to an educated one), and in that case it makes lots of sense to train them with the exact same tools they will be expected to use in employment. Which means Windows, MS Office, etc.

Also, don't forget that it will surely be so much in Microsoft's interest to get those youngsters to equate software with Microsoft that they will provide exceptionally deep discounts to education purchasers - probably as far as giving the stuff away.

It will take some principled political leadership to enforce an OSS policy on education in UK, and I really can't see much prospect of that coming from the current government.

Re:Obvious (5, Insightful)

Henriok (6762) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475188)

To some degree, what employers want is a trained workforce (as opposed to an educated one), and in that case it makes lots of sense to train them with the exact same tools they will be expected to use in employment. Which means Windows, MS Office, etc.

I was taught DOS when I was in elementary school. When I graduated and got a job, what use did I have for my knowledge in DOS?

This argument you have is absolutely moot since the landscape of operating systems are changeing so fast.

Re:Obvious (4, Interesting)

mattyrobinson69 (751521) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475216)

most uk schools now have more than one computer room, if they used an MS room for teaching kids to use MS office, then an OSS room for doing their work. then they're trained to use office and educated on OSS products - if in 15 years, most UK business converted, that could do wonders for our economy.

Re:Obvious (1)

Library Spoff (582122) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475238)

I work in a public library and it's our council I.T. dept who purchase ALL our machines and at the end of the day tell us what we can and can't do. It's the same for the schools locally.

Our I.T. dept won't support a mac, so i can't see them
supporting linux anytime in the future. I know it's because they don't have anyone employed who knows how to "fix" them - macs that is - so even suggesting Linux and/or OSS on windows would be an exercise in futility.

It took a LOT of persuasion to allow us to use putty, including signing a document that said we wouldn't ask for support for it...

Re:Obvious (1)

tezbobobo (879983) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475270)

Actually, you've got that wrong. The trend in education nowadays is not geared towards creating industry ready archtypical factory turnouts. Its a self sustaining system with strongly institutionalised values. Schools don't set there cirriculum according to industry demands (unless that industry is a university). The trendtowards oucome based assessment assures that. Also, the rising level of graduate unemployment agrees with me. What is missing in education is a push towards innovation, imagination and improvisation. Those things make assessment harder to do. For example, an outcome based assessment would say if you child can do math this way, he's passed. If he innovated and finds a new solution, if he doesn't meet the outcome criteria, he's failed. Industry is not the reason for the homogenisation of the education system; that's economic and the result of modern business practice. We should move away from that and maybe forcing child innivation is an appropriate method. In addition, if you look at trends in the industry away from microsoft.

This report does NOT matter (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475150)

UK Schools will be Microsoft dominated for a long, long time to come. Whatever this report says its likely to be wishful thinking. Speaking as someone who has left education in the UK recently, don't get your hopes up.

wow (1)

puneypunk (831917) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475152)

This is pretty cool, I like the idea of kids coming into contact with OSS at an early age, but I can't see this as saving money. All the IT teachers I have come into contact with in primary/secondary schools (the last seven years - I just left school) have very little technical knowledge other than how to use MS office, so surely there will be training costs.

Into the minds of the young (5, Interesting)

silence535 (101360) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475161)

Lately I was absolutely amazed how much my 14 year old cousin associates 'Windows' with 'Computer' and vice versa. He had absolutely no idea that there even is a company called Apple and that there are other operating systems like Linux or *BSD.

Computer is PC and PC is Windows.

This is actually a really bad sign, since one tends to like what you are used to. If you learn on the one OS and get into computers only on this road, than everything else you cross by later will only be 'Not as you know it.'

We hear that argument ever so often, especially in the context of Office programs. People dislike OpenOffice not because it does not do the job for them, but because '...it is not like MS-Office'.

'In Word I can do this and that...'

Using MS Products in schools cements their Monopoly in a way that no other marketing campain could achieve.

-jsl

Re:Into the minds of the young (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475207)

Lately I was absolutely amazed how much my 14 year old cousin associates 'Windows' with 'Computer' and vice versa. He had absolutely no idea ..
Here I was about to offer to do some volunteer work for once in my life, and you ruined it!

Re:Into the minds of the young (1)

khujifig (875862) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475247)

"We hear that argument ever so often, especially in the context of Office programs. People dislike OpenOffice not because it does not do the job for them, but because '...it is not like MS-Office'."

I had this very thing the other day. I was talking to someone about Word, and they said that they didn't like the way it keeps second-guessing what you do, and it has some odd quirks etc. OpenOffice.org immediately springs to mind, so I asked them if they'd tried it. To my surprise, they said "yes, it came with my computer, but I didn't get on with it. None of my Word [keyboard] shortcuts work with OpenOffice, and I don't want to have to relearn a word processor. I prefer Word, and have gone back to it". I honestly don't think they were winding me up.
Oddly, they really like LaTeX (not the material), and prefer the Apple mac.

At least they have the choice over what to use. Not everyone is so fortunate, particularly in schools / offices.

Re:Into the minds of the young (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475381)

People in deneral do not understand the concept of "operating system", and thus think eg. Linux as something like MS Office running on Windows.

By blurring all that is beneath Windows Microsoft gains this, since they can "anti-teach" people everything about computers, moving their view of the world to be exactly PC=Windows.

Re:Into the minds of the young (5, Interesting)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475461)

Computer is PC and PC is Windows.

Exactly, and it goes much deeper than that. My girlfriend (there goes my slashdot reputation) was absolutely amazed that I had something non-Windows. (I run: Mac OS X, Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and also Windows 2000). Before she knew me she bought a (much too expensive) Windows machine for her needs. She only got trouble with it. She was absolutely amazed at what my iBook could do. Needless to say that she was pretty much pissed that she didn't know about Apple. Why didn't she know? Simple: she schooling she had was Windows-only. Even though some teachers told her to get a Mac, it didn't stick with her. (After all she never saw one before meeting me).
So when the time came to buy a computer, she looked at the advertisements. The only thing you see there were... you got it: Windows machines. She bought that (and upon the advice of her former boyfriend, she bought the most expensive one that was sold at the time). For the same price she could have gotten a fully loaded Apple. She doesn't need much: she's a kindergarden teacher and has to write the occasional letter to parents and surf the web and email. The machine she had (before buying her new computer) would have been more than adequate with some added RAM. (The old machine now is used by her mom after I added RAM and reinstalled it... It works *just fine*)
Only after I cleaned her new machine and secured it (which took a lot of time) her machine is now usable. I already tried to convince her to buy a Mac Mini to replace her P-IV machine, but she doesn't want to spend money on new computer hardware anymore. Very understandable.

As for Microsoft in education. I am an (apprentice-)teacher since january this year. Everything I (have) to teach is 100% Microsoft. The school-programme itself never mentions "Microsoft" per se, but if you read the programme and know what software is installed on the machines, you know exactly what is meant. Up until now, I managed to survive with my own Office 97 copy to prepare courses. Alas, I now have to do databases, which means "Access". I found out the hard way that Access 2003 (what the school runs) is incompatible with Access 97. Today I asked the computer-department to get a copy of Office 2003 in order to upgrade my own machine. (Note: this is completely legal in the context of their contract). It absolutely sucks. Personally I write all my stuff (courses, tests, etc...) in OpenOffice, but course preparation without the software that is run at school is pretty much impossible. I fear that Office 2003 is going to a dog on my P-III 600Mhz laptop that I have dedicated for schoolwork.

Of course, schooling in this country is completely sold to Microsoft. :-( I'd rather teach the kids the basics, but as I understood, the school programmes are written by asking companies what they want from people that have a certain diploma. The companies obviously want Microsoft, because that will give them people that are nearly immediately productive. It's sad... Perhaps some day this will change, but for now I'm stuck with that kind of mentality.

Makes me wonder why I actually wanted to become a teacher. :-((

Quite right (1)

t_allardyce (48447) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475172)

I don't know about switching from Windows, Linux certainly isn't usable on the desktop yet (ducks) but OpenOffice and Firefox are, and they are drop-in replacements for Word and IE, there's no reason not to switch.

This is my tax money being wasted, this governments IT department is given as much money as they want and told to waste it on everything from buggy new medical record systems, to notebooks that get used for solitaire and 'new age' recognition software that really shouldn't have left the lab yet. Meanwhile there are so many useful projects that would cost next to nothing for local councils to do - how about linking the Bus tracking system to the net/phones so psychologically people will be motivated to wait for the Bus for example?

Only in case of equivalent quality (4, Insightful)

moz25 (262020) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475184)

I think it's a good move, but only if there is no significant downgrade in terms of quality. Making such a move solely based on monetary or semi-political motivation wouldn't be good. With the current state of OSS software (e.g. OpenOffice), we might be seeing this condition met.

Good to see that someone can save... (0, Redundant)

demon_2k (586844) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475198)

People argue about what is cheaper.
GNU people say that Linux is.
While, pro Microsoft study demonstrates otherwise.

I'm neither, while i don't like Microsoft. I do think it has it's place and it is beneficial to some in some situations. Just like Linux is.

There is no clear answer here, figureout what it is that you need first. Then compare prices.

Re:Good to see that someone can save... (1)

blechx (767202) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475428)

Actually, GNU people say GNU/Linux ;)

And the primary concern of GNUheads is freedom, not price.

Excellent news, but replacements for s/w? (4, Insightful)

michaeldot (751590) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475255)

Don't schools use a lot of software that runs on top of either of the Windows or Mac platforms?

Are there OSS equivalents for titles like The Way Things Work, or science lab programs, astronomy simulations, or all those Director based multimedia titles, etc?

OSS is great at replacing an office suite, email program, graphics editor, etc.

But are there a lot of OSS educational programs out there, or educators going to rely on web site content?

Just curious.

Re:Excellent news, but replacements for s/w? (2, Interesting)

Illissius (694708) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475451)

Well, there's these [kde.org] . I haven't tried them myself (no need, you see ;), but some of them have been winning awards and such.

Not so easy to dump M$ (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475284)

My partner works in ICT at a UK high school. Drawing on her experience I can suggest a bunch reasons why "dump Microsoft" is a simplistic solution.

1. There are a lot of computers to reconfigure. A high school has more workstations than the average small business and far fewer sysadmins per machine. The cost in time of switching all the machines to Linux or BSD would be vast.

2. Her school has special software for controlling access to resources. You need this in a school full of inventive and downright evil kids. The current s/w, which is rather good at its job, is build on M$ protocols and would have to be replaced. Doubtless you could build something similar on Linux for zero capital cost, but it would take ages and you'd only make it secure after the kids had exploited all the initial loopholes.

3. UK business want shool leavers trained explicitly in Windows and M$ Office tools as that's what the businesses use. Schools used to use non-M$ computers, and employers found that school leavers couldn't handle the real-world norm.

4. Schools _teach_ ICT. If the ICT curriculum says "teach them M$", then, duh, you have to have enough Windows boxes around to do that. If the school has the liberty to teach use of OSS systems instead, then the change has to be phased in so that students part-way through school aren't disrupted.

5. The students do their homework on home PCs which are almost always Windows. If the school has Linux or BSD machines, then the work and the files needs to be perfectly portable between M$ and OSS. That simply isn't the case (yet) and no amount of OSS evangelism chances that fact. In fact, schools are a good metric for when OSS and M$ become _really_ interchangeable.

Re:Not so easy to dump M$ (2, Insightful)

Windowser (191974) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475449)

5. The students do their homework on home PCs which are almost always Windows. If the school has Linux or BSD machines, then the work and the files needs to be perfectly portable between M$ and OSS. That simply isn't the case (yet) and no amount of OSS evangelism chances that fact. In fact, schools are a good metric for when OSS and M$ become _really_ interchangeable.

What's preventing them from installing the same program they use at school on these home PCs ?

You know, OpenOffice run on windows also. And it's really the same interface, and since the total cost is $0, what could be the reason to NOT install them ?

I've been using OO, Mozilla/Firefox and GAIM on windows for years, this has made my conversion to Linux a lot easier. I didn't had to learn new ways to work, just had to get used to the fact of not crashing every now and then.

Make yourself a favor, use all the OpenSource software you can on windows, it will make your transition to Linux a lot easier. My emails aren't jailed in M$ land, I just copied them from Mozilla-mail on Windows to Mozilla-mail on Linux. My documents are free to go to any platform that OO runs on. My bookmarks followed me on Linux, I just had to copy a single HTML file. etc...

Linux : because penguin don't freeze

It's about time! (4, Interesting)

LinearBob (258695) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475293)

I have been wondering just how long it would be before someone realized that the annual tithe they pay to the folks in Redmond made little sense when the purpose was for students to learn how to use a spreadsheet or a word processor. There are plenty of lower cost or even no cost (as in free beer) versions of these old warhorses. If the basics of page layout and print formatting are the subject at hand, then using MS Word or Office is not the most economical way to go.

What this really does do, though, is break the lock step routine that has been going on for a while -- the schools teach MS specifics because Business uses MS, while Business says they use MS because that's what new hires know, so the new hires won't waste a lot of time having to learn new tricks.

I hope to see more of this, because for too long MS has been "locking" students into their way of thinking and of doing things. Bravo for the folks with enough courage to stand up to the MS juggernaut!

We hope you are enjoying... (0, Flamebait)

Edward Teach (11577) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475314)

the Slashdot Deja Vu News. This is a new feature of Slashdot, offered as a service to our readers with Alzheimers, much like our editors.

Linux for Schools Project (1, Interesting)

paj1234 (234750) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475323)

A special problem in education computing is the need to add and remove user accounts in batch. If you are setting up a Linux based server and you need to add many hundreds of new user accounts to it, I hope you might find this useful:

http://www.lfsp.org/ [lfsp.org]

It offers a little free utility called "createusers" that I wrote for adding and removing user accounts en-masse. As well as basic login accounts, createusers optionally also sets up corresponding Apache personal webspace in the home directory, Samba account, MySQL or PostgreSQL personal database and per-user disk quota.

Maybe in the Long Run (1)

QBasicer (781745) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475352)

Sure the UK could start saving money in the long run, but I can imagine the cost to get all the computers to run Linux would be of great cost. Just getting them set up to work with their hardware would be a pain because usually they're from big computer companies (We have IBMs at my school in Canada). After that, you need to train all the teachers how to use it, so they could help the students. I'm pretty sure the students wouldn't like it after they downloaded a game of the internet to play and found they couldn't run it on Linux (ignoreing wine). Wait, maybe that's a reason for switching.

I would love if every school in the world switched to Linux, but the costs involved are unreal, including the training.

Speaking as a UK tax payer, this is a good move (4, Insightful)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475354)

I have always found it disgusting that some of the taxes I pay for public services find their way into the pockets of private enterprise, financing the huge salaries of CEOs and paying out to shareholders.

I recognise that sometimes this is unavoidable - for example, hospitals need computers and those computers need to be bought from a PC supplier like, say, Dell. But I would alaways hope that in such a curcumstance, the best deal possible has been negotiated.

In the case of software in schools, I do not understand why commercial software is purchased when viable free alternatives exist at the level at which they are used in schools - for example, if a schoolkid is being taught how to use a word processor or how to create a spreadsheet, why do they need MS Office when OpenOffice has more than enough functionality for the level they need?

What's more heartbreaking is the fact that companies like Microsoft suck money out of the system which can instead be put to better use training and paying teachers more, on books, etc.

No, I'm not blaming Microsoft alone or directly, they're just a business trying to make money after all, but Open Source software can also serve as an example to kids to show them what can be achieved when people put pure financial gain to one side and just work together for the purpose of making something good.

timothy on a roll tonight! (-1, Offtopic)

wan-fu (746576) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475374)

timothy's on a roll tonight! He had that Roland Piquepaille submission a few hours ago and now a dupe! Way to step it up timothy! If only the rest of the /. editors could reach these great standards. Oh, and I'm posting this at +2 (karma to burn and all) because people need to see that we must get rid of both Roland and timothy.

Saving Money (4, Informative)

01000011011101000111 (868998) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475378)

I thought I'd reply here to everyone that's currently bashing the idea of using cheaper software in schools as somehow being bad for childrens education.
IT'S NOT. Schools (in the UK at least) have a very limited budget to spend, which doesn't just cover software - it has to manage teachers (of whom we currently have a shortage due to the abysmal wage they get), school dinners, visits and trips - even things like the bus to school in some places. Now, if this was aimed at the government as some "magic tax-saving measure" (get OSS for schools, save £1-2Bn tax) then I'd be worried. However, as it's aimed at schools, it means that they can free up sizable chunks of their budget to concentrate on other areas (Teachers for instance) - other areas which, in all honesty, probably do more for a childs education than M$ Super-dooper-text-ed-2025++ edition OR Open-tux-GNU-codehacker-6000.

In related news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475411)

...Microsoft announced their analysis of the last UK General Elections had detected an operator error in the log of Windows Vote Tabulator XP (TM), and reported the rectified results as follows:
Tory 61%, LibDem 18%, Ulster Unionists 10%, Loonie Fringe 6%, Labour 5%.

But should we be dump it? (1, Troll)

tobybuk (633332) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475425)

Ok, since I'm daring to disparage the almost blind assumption on Slashdot that OSS = good, I fully expect to be moded down but here goes.

When my child leaves school I want her to be able to get a job. If she doesn't know how to use the dominant office automation tool employer's use then she will be discriminated against.

Yes I know, if everyone... and when everyone ... and how good it will all be when... and we should all take the moral high ground... But that doesn't change reality. MS Office is here to stay. You' not going to wake up and overnight have the majority of business change to OSS. Really!

I want my child to learn on MS Software.

Double Whammy (1)

TheUncleBob (791234) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475445)

Getting Microsoft out of schools, especially if they move to openoffice, won't just save the schools money. The parents will also save a fortune not having to buy copies of Microsoft Office just so their children can do their homework.

This is a lose lose situation for Microsoft. Even though the student edition of Office is much cheaper than a full copy, many parents don't know about it, and fork out for a full copy.

Surely going open-source would be a good thing? (1)

homgran (766092) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475446)

It's often said that young children are very good at quickly learning new skills. Surely, if schools switched to being exclusively open-source, the kids would soon find it second-nature - which, in turn, would lay a good foundation for a more technologically adept generation. Shouldn't this be one of the aims of schools anyway?

So not only would it save money, but it would also provide students with a better education in IT.

What about the staff training? (4, Interesting)

jesterzog (189797) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475450)

The report may well be perfectly valid, but I'm a little suspicious of it without further information, if only because the main cost normally hyped for Open Source Software tends to be the training cost. (I'll welcome being corrected.) From the article:

The association analysed costs at 33 schools which use paid-for software, and compared them with 15 which have pioneered the use of free programs, known as open source, and the pared-down hardware to run them.

It's difficult to judge this because the report hasn't been released and the article isn't very specific. I'd be interested, however, to know what kinds of prior skills the people at the 15 OSS schools had before they began, versus those at the 33 Microsoft schools. For all we know from the article, these 15 schools had the only 15 staff who are at all familiar with open source software in the entire UK education system. This is unlikely, but my intended point is that the actual cost could be dependent on what skills are available to the school within their existing staff.

If the IT staff at the OSS schools were already confident with installing, configuring and maintaining OSS software, it may be that it was no problem and they could have the low-cost benefits of free software. For all we know, however, the staff at the Microsoft schools might have been regular teachers with more important teaching responsibilities than how to administer the computers. Using Microsoft software would clearly cost more, but what matters is how it'd compare with training all the necessary staff to use OSS.

Staff at Microsoft schools may have had little or no OSS experience, and almost no hope of successfully setting up or administering an open source system without some serious help from an expert. This would be compared with plugging in a pre-installed Microsoft PC similar to their home PC, and running a few setup programs for various educational software, that is.

What's the current status of random people being able to randomly install and use open source software in useful ways? Without having had to go through an installation from that point of view for some time, it's hard for me to know.

Anyway, this isn't to say that the OSS installation and configuration issues couldn't be bypassed in some other way that might still work out to be cheaper. Perhaps it's still not too expensive to simply train people. Alternatively, depending on how serious the curriculum was, an education department might offer a service to configure computers for schools, and perhaps even administer them remotely.

Brain Surgeons to be trained with Shovels! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#12475458)

One of the most important skills to have in many jobs is to be familiar with both the Microsoft operating systems and Microsoft Office. So if you do not teach our kids to use the tools used by over 90% of businesses because someone says that is too expensive (and their figures would appear open to question), then, using the same logic, you may as well teach brain surgery using shovels.

Focus on whats really important (3, Informative)

JimiRoenberg (882565) | more than 8 years ago | (#12475462)

Why is this Free/Libre Open Source Software discussion always about being against Microsoft or other commercial companies that develop software.

Try to focus on the principles that are important - it might actually make sense to choose a commercial company to develop the software as long as the software adhere to the principles.

For example the principles in the bill that Peru introduced on the states use of software. The bill set forward some principles that all suppliers of software must follow:

http://www.opensource.org/docs/peru_and_ms.php [opensource.org]

Microsoft of course tried to fight this bill since they don't want to follow these principles, but that's their business descision. The bill does not ban Microsoft or any other supplier for developing and delivering software to Peru.

It would really be nice if all other countries tried to follow this approach.
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