Friday, December 2, 2011

Shifting 'iSchools Project' To FOSS

The iSchools Project was a computerization initiative of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) which is set to wrap up this year. DOST said that its roll-outs of the iSchools Project in different parts of the country have revealed a “confusing” software policy among schools, especially “with what appears to be Department of Education (DepEd)’s continuing promotion of paid productivity software.” DOST also revealed it has opened discussions with DepEd to urge the agency to use FOSS (free and open source software).

The Project manager of iSchools, Antonette Torres said, “DepEd’s involvement with Microsoft is neither conducive to creating an environment favorable to ICT skills development for students, nor justifiable when no-cost software alternatives are already being offered.” As a computerization program, the iSchools Project have given computer laboratories with open-source operating systems (Ubuntu 10.04 and EdUbuntu). It has also conducted training workshops, which included Computer and Internet Literacy Course, CampBlog content development program, PC Recycling, Library Management, among others.

According to a case study posted in Microsoft’s official website, DepEd opted to use its software products since it is 33-percent more expensive to train teachers in open-source software. This could be true, iSchools said, considering the number of years that Microsoft has invested in the local education sector. But, the project team said this has resulted in the Philippines having “Microsoft dependent instructors that need Microsoft programs to fully utilize their skills”. The iSchools Project proponents said the country’s student population and faculty should never become dependent on a single technology and vendor such as Microsoft.

The group said its “closeout” workshops have revealed that DepEd’s “Microsoft dependency” has also given the agency no choice but to prescribe the use of specific proprietary software in its curriculum. “DepEd’s refusal to train its teachers on the use of FOSS stunts the opportunity to nurture the skills needed to adapt to a 21st century learning environment,” iSchools said.

“Our instructors and teachers become who they are through years of tedious learning. Stereotyping them as people incapable of learning new things is a complete paradox to their roles in society. Learning forms a huge part of their being, especially as frontliners of the department in-charge of our country’s education. DepEd should be more thoughtful in the long-term repercussions of their policies — most especially their current Microsoft involvement,” Torres added.

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