Free software in India is from now on mandatory for IT practicals of SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) examination planned for March 2008.
Orders making free software compulsory have been issued by the Director of Public Instruction (DPI), considering Linux Operating System should be used
for IT education in 8th, 9th, and 10th standards. The DPI will also start various programs to popularize the free software. Until last year, schools had to choose between free software and the Windows operating system.
For the 10th standard, fully Linux-based text books have been prepared, while for the 8th and 9th standard more books have been provided. These books were prepared by SCERT (State Council Educational Research and Training) and Free Software Foundation of India under the guidance of IT@school project.
Introductory lectures will be delivered in school assemblies across the country on Monday, and after them a pledge will follow. Outlines for the lectures and pledge circulate in schools. The DPI has started organizing competitions for the students mainly in the digital art area.
A digital painting competition for students of 8th standard will be conducted using the applications TUX paint, XPaint and GIMP, with the subject “My school and surrounding” , and a presentation contest will be held for the students of 9th and 10th standard with the topic “IT and its benefits to the common man”, using Open Office Impress. Both competitions will have a duration of one hour and a half.
The prize winning paintings will be compiled at the State level and then uploaded on the website The official web site of the Department of General Education , Government of Kerala.
The situation is at least ironic: by making compulsory the use of software that should be free, the government is annulling the students’ freedom of choice; still, at the same time, the measure (namely using free, open source software) also means a lot of money will be saved by these schools.