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Petition for Mandating Use of Free and Open Source Software in New Education Policy -2016.

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Recommendations on National Education Policy (NEP)

This is a draft of suggestions/ recommendations given to the Central Government of India on the National Education Policy (NEP) submitted on 30th September 2016 with 700+ signatures. Please extend your support by signing the petition till the new policy is implemented. 

This draft is prepared by Krishnakant Mane, Prof Nagarjuna, Rushabh, J T Dsouza, Siji Sunny, Arun Khan, Pralhad C, Milind Oka and GNU/Linux Group, Mumbai, on behalf of all FOSS activists.

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This draft particularly focuses on recommendations regarding ICT in education. Note that this is a work in progress and changes will be added as per feedback from other organisations/ individuals.

Preface:

Information Communication Technology (ICT) is the pivot and backbone of our lives in this digital age.
Education is one of the most important aspect which is affected by ICT.
The said sector depends heavily on computers and other such devices like Tablets and more so on the software (programs ) and the Operating System which these machines run.
There are two types of software systems available as choices. Free (as in freedom ) often referred to as Open Source Software, and proprietary software. These two systems differ In the way they are provided to the end-users, development practices and amount of freedom users have with the technology.
While Free and Open Source Software gives every one the permission to use, understanding and make copies with or without modifications, the proprietary software only allows user to use a single copy on a single machine without any permission to understand, modify or make copies for personal or professional reasons even though license has been payed for.
There are several issues governing what kind of Software and OS should be used in education. This document focuses on these issues and will make recommendations on software and OS to be used in educational institute's syllabus and administration.

FOSS as the mandatory solution:

As mentioned in preface, it becomes obvious that Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) should be made mandatory In education as a government policy.
As a matter of fact, almost all proprietary programs and OS have free software replacements, some being even better.
This report lists strong reasons for such a recommendation in the following sections.

Free of charge to download:

All Free software is free of charge to download, although commercial support may be purchased from individual companies.
The fact that downloading and making copies of Free software is not charged, makes it an extremely cost effective replacement for proprietary counterparts.
This has a serious implication on procuring technologies in education.
Firstly a lot of public money can be saved and used for better purposes within educational institutes itself.
Secondly such cost effectiveness also has an effect on the fees (note that schools and colleges have to pay heavy for buying proprietary license copies of software, the same is compensated through high fees ).
India being a country where right to education is a rule, we must realize that poor people can’t afford high fees which essentially denies them good quality education.
Since FOSS replacements are available, for example Libre Office or Open office for Microsoft Office, Firefox or Chromium for Internet Explorer, GIMP for Photoshop, GNUKhata for Tally etc, there is no reason why institutes should prefer to use closed and proprietary software.
There are plenty of examples as proof of concept and success, including the Kerala Model which has proved that the cost of education can be brought down to a great extent using Free Software.
In addition there are international examples like Extremadura in Spain on a bigger scale and high success using FOSS in education.
Refer : http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2265108/spains-extremadura-government-switches-40-000-pcs-to-linux-and-open-source-software

Free to customize and localize:

The very principle of free software is to freely customize software.
All Free software thus can be altered to suit local requirements.
This also includes translating such FOSS programs in Indian languages.
This becomes very important culturally because education is many a times determined by local cultural factors.
Language is also a major issue, given that most Indian population is comfortable learning in their own language.
Since the FOSS licenses like GPL allow and encourage improvements, government can dedicate organizations/ institutes to alter free software products and even localize them. Dedicated funding can be allocated for such work.
Such an arrangement will not just help utilize financial resources in a justified way rather than spending on costly licenses, but also generate lot of employment in such technical and semi-technical work.
Further more if we have to spread digital empowerment in the semi-urban and rural areas of the country, then such localized versions are a must have and FOSS is the only way we can achieve this on a large scale without a lot of financial overheads.

 Importance in ICT education:

The ability to study and customize the software has particular importance in the field of ICT
education research has proved that if students can study and modify already mature and professional quality programs, they learn standard programming practices and acquire high degree of professionalism by learning from senior experts and by seeing existing source code and also learn from community.
Using proprietary software only makes them users of existing languages with no scope for their own ideas as would be software engineers.
In short just like medical students have to learn human/ animal anatomy to become good Dr's good engineers must have the freedom to see insides of OS or other software such as programming languages.
Most of the IT companies today are using Open source for almost all their work, thus making it even more important for universities to stay in sync with the industry trends.

Ease and comfort of use:

There is a popular misconception that FOSS OS or related programs are difficult, command line oriented and uncomfortable to be used.
Such a wrong notion stems from the fact that We have been only exposed to proprietary software since a long time. More over even if we use FOSS in daily life (android for example is an Open Source OS on Most mobiles ), we are not aware of it. Most big organizations specially those concerning Internet based services use FOSS.


Right from Indian courts till organizations like Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) are using Free and Open Source Software and commercial enterprises like Just Dial or Trimax make extensive use of FOSS.
Several schools and colleges are also possessing dedicated labs for Free Software.


There are enough evidence that FOSS is not just easy to use but also very user friendly (some times more user friendly than proprietary counterparts ).
Add the fact that GNU/Linux is totally virus free and developed in a transparent way. All that it takes is a persistence of use of FOSS.
Refer : http://www.iasptk.com/supreme-court-ordered-courts-across-india-switch-ubuntu/

MHRD(School-5 Section) dated 17-06-2014 referred to FOSS: 

The MHRD (School-5 Section) dated 17-06-2014 circular of GOI had already referred to the preference of Open source Software.
There is no reason why it is not referred in the current National Education Policy draft.
In fact as discussed in all the previous sections Free Software, also referred to as Free and Open Source Software must not just be preferred but made mandatory. A rare exception can be made where a Free Software is not up to the requirement of a certain task or some job which some proprietary software in it’s latest version is able to do. Such a comparison should be well justified and enough reasons should be given as to why a free software can’t be used. Even in a situation where such an exception is made, the government must take active steps to bring a free software replacement to the required standard by funding development of such programs.
Please refer the  document :  MHRD - Important Document 



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