Education ministry in Austria supports GNU/Linux distribution for schools
With support from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture (BMUKK), the third edition of a special version of a GNU/Linux distribution for schools has just been published.
The aim “is to promote the installation of open source software onto Austria’s school computers as part of the EU Action Plan i2010″, the ministry recommends in a letter to the headmasters of all Austrian schools.
The driving force behind the project, Robert Kristoefl, head of IT at the ministry, says there some of the reasons for the introduction of GNU/Linux are far more important than simply the financial aspect. In an article on the Austrian platform, Format, Kristoefl says; “Primarily, the object is to provide students with a wide and varied education. This includes learning how to process texts, not just how to use Winword.”
The GNU/Linux school distribution is based on openSUSE 11.1. It is available in both server and desktop variations. Apart from the operating system itself, the desktop4education version offers various open source applications, such as content management system Joomla. Another application is the ninth version of StarOffice, the version of OpenOffice by the Sun Microsystems. In this particular case support will be provided by the Austrian office of Sun.
The desktop software is also able to connect with other networks, including the open source OpenLDAP directory server, the proprietary Microsoft Server and the proprietary Novell eDirectory. The server variation, server4education, gives administrators the relevant software to link up the schools PCs as quickly as possible. Furthermore, the open source initiative comes with a DVD with training videos of Open Office.
Support and development of the software is provided by a team of teachers and developers at the Weiz state grammar school in the Austrian region Oststeiermark.
From 2010, proprietary office licenses used in schools will no longer be funded by the Education Ministry. Funding for operating systems will end in 2012. The Linux variation from Weiz is one of many alternatives. The Kremser state grammar school, Rechte Kreimszeile, in lower Austria, recently presented its own development for use in schools, the Debian-GNU/Linux version, LinuxAdvanced.
The initiative is showing first successes. Latest figures show that 30 percent of Austria’s grammar schools and 40 percent of technical schools will be changing to OpenOffice in the coming school year.
Only schools in the country’s capital seems to go against the trend. Vienna was once a pioneer for the use of open source in public administration with the desktop project Wienux. Yet in June of 2008, GNU/Linux-based PCs in 720 kindergartens had proprietary Windows added because one applications was dependent on Microsoft’s browser.
Desktop4education (in German)
Format news item (in German)
LinuxAdvanced (in German)