Why we need Free Software in Education
In the FSFE we support that students should learn Free Software and educational institutes should use Free Software. Free Software in Education cultivates technological and collaborative skills. Here is why.
Free Software increases code literacy
Free Software is better than proprietary software at helping students understand technology and specifically coding. With Free Software, students can read the source code of a program and learn how it operates. Reading the source code satisfies a natural curiosity about how things work, and encourages learning. This is not possible with proprietary software.
For students who are self-taught programmers, access to the source is even more important. Writing good code requires reading a lot of code, which is only possible with Free Software. Using programs which hide their source code is sabotaging knowledge transfer and goes against the spirit of education. Aspiring developers cannot learn only from the programs they develop themselves, because they need access to collaborative software projects to encounter the required level of complexity to build their coding skills.
Teach skills, not products
Students should learn information technology concepts instead of only learning how to use products of proprietary software companies. Students should know how to use various Free Software programs for each program type, understand their differences, and choose what is best for them. Their knowledge should allow them to use Free Software if they want to. Digital literacy with a focus on Free Software will make students well-informed and not dependent on a specific service.
This point deserves careful attention in cases where schools use programs which will eventually have a price for the user. Schools should not be systematically teaching the use of programs that will not be available to the students after their graduation. Students have the right to learn programs that will be available to them in the long run. Students can also modify and share Free Software, adjusting it to their needs. On a large scale, a young competent generation which is familiar with Free Software can lead to a robust society independent of technological monopolies.
Free Software shows the value of cooperation
Educational institutions prepare students to become citizens with social responsibility. When educational institutions choose software, they should consider how it was made. Free Software development and distribution is a process that includes cooperation and the willingness to help others. Behind Free Software are people who consistently choose to offer a novel idea to the world, instead of hiding their idea in exchange for profit. With Free Software, students learn the value of working together for the common good.