Mumbai: School gives software firms run for their money. Here’s how

Mumbai: Schools and colleges have now begun to adopt free open source computer software for learning instead of paying huge amounts for licensing. St Mary’s School at Mazgaon is the first school to have adopted Linux open source Operating System (OS). This move has overthrown the monopoly of proprietary software like Microsoft, Adobe and Acrobat. The school has saved around Rs 2,000 of every student by adopting this free OS. Both the teachers and students have been acquainted to this new software as it is quite similar to the other software that they were initially using.

This school opted for this change because it lacked the funds needed for licensing and also due to the technological advantage. Fr Jude Fernandes, principal of the school, said, “My school is an aided school where we charge just Rs 600 as computer fees for an entire year from every student. I could not burden my students to pay more fees just so that I could pay the licensing charges of these software, amounting to lakhs of rupees.” This idea of installing this change was initiated by a voluntary group of teachers and professionals called Linux Users Group (ILUG) of Mumbai.

A senior member of the group said, “Our education institutions have been teaching us Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Adobe Photoshop. Whereas, a text document, presentation or designing is what students need to learn. And that can be learnt on any software. We can learn on freely available software instead of paying huge sums for these products.” Surprisingly, questions related to these products were also asked in Maharashtra State Board examinations.The member added, “Recently, the state board issued a notification, stating that schools should use open source software.

The member added, “Recently, the state board issued a notification, stating that schools should use open source software. Therefore, questions in computer papers have been shifted from Microsoft word to text document and Excel sheets to spreadsheets.” These open source free software do not have a license fee and are easily available with low virus risks. Fernandes added, “The recruitment companies want students who are well versed with these software so I think education institutions should adopt this change for the technological benefit.”

The ILUG found out in a Right to Information (RTI) query that Ruia College had spent Rs 30 lakh in three years, Khalsa College spent Rs 8 lakh in one year and the civic body spent Rs 18 lakh on these proprietary software. The ILUG which can be approached at aims to approach more schools and colleges to adopt this change and help students.

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