[fosscomm] MHRD draft policy on ICTs in school education says 'Free and Open Source software should be preferred'

Sasi Kumar sasi.fsf at gmail.com
Sat Jul 25 22:57:46 PDT 2009

2009/7/26 Parminder <parminder at itforchange.net>:

> Does anyone want to take up the task of framing a response from this group?

Here is the letter being sent from FSF India. Perhaps, this can be
discussed as the draft of a letter to be sent from FOSSCOMM.

V. Sasi Kumar
Free Software Foundation of India
Please see: http://swatantryam.blogspot.com/
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Dear sir,

We wish to record our appreciation for the progressive policy adopted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development for ICT in School Education. The policy promises to promote a culture of sharing and collaboration among teachers and students. In particular, we wish to record our appreciation for certain aspects of the policy. For instance, we really appreciate statements in the draft policy document such as:

"4.1.2 The ICT literacy programme will endeavour to provide a broad set of generic skills and conceptual knowledge and not focus on mastering the use of specific software applications."

and also

"6.1.1 The state shall endeavour to provide universal, equitable, open and free access to ICT and ICT enabled tools and resources to all students and teachers."

At the same time, we would like to put on record our apprehensions on certain aspects of the policy. The draft policy states:

"5.3.2 Free ware, free and open source software applications will be preferred."

This is rather vague and confusing. There are basic differences between freeware and Free Software. Freeware is proprietary and restricts the user in several ways. For instance, certain software, though freely downloadable from a website, cannot be shared with others. Each user will have to download it separately. Moreover, freeware does not give the user the freedom to modify the software because the source code is hidden. Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is fundamentally different in that it allows users to share, modify and redistribute modified software. In that respect, FOSS suits the basic philosophy of the policy, while freeware does not. We, therefore, strongly recommend that the policy clearly and unambiguously state that Free and Open Source software will be used. In fact, statements 4.1.2 and 6.1.1 cited above clearly indicate the need for using FOSS.

Another statement that does not seem to go well with the basic philosophy of the document is the following:

10.8.1 Build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) models for ICT infrastructure will be preferred.

This model is certainly not suited for the idea of sharing and collaboration that the policy document repeatedly states. Kerala has shown that a model that empowers the teachers and develops the programme with support from the teacher community can be successful. This not only helps to empower the teaching community, but also creates ownership in the community. These are aspects that can help the programme to succeed. We, therefore, strongly urge you to refrain from preferring the BOOT model.

We are sure that this is a scheme that can bring about fundamental changes in our ailing education system, and we promise all our support for the programme.


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