State is a leader in migrating schools systems to FOSS
Kerala's school education system has fully migrated to Free and Open Source software ( FOSS), making this arguably the largest such roll out globally in the educational arena.
Information technology has been a part of the High school curriculum in Kerala since 2003 with IT being a compulsory subject at the 8th standard The shift to FOSS came in 2005 and two years became part of government policy across all departments. In August 2008, Government instructed all institutions under General Education Department to strictly use Free Software alone in all future teaching and training activities. With the decision of State Curriculum committee to implement Free & Open Source Software (FOSS) in Higher Secondary as well, the entire spectrum of Kerala education became 'Open'.
A July 2016 circular , directed all departments to halt usage of proprietary software and to use FOSS. As a follow up, the Computer Science and Humanities sections in the Higher Secondary shifted to Free Software. But in the Commerce section of Higher Secondary, use was being made of Tally package for Computerised Accounting System. This was on a Microsoft Windows platform. That too has now been addressed: revised textbooks will soon include Free Software applications such as GNUKhata which would replace the proprietary Tally software, Libre Office Calc and Base which replaces Microsoft Excel and Access applications.
Says Anvar Sadath.K, Executive Director of IT@School Project: “IT@School is implementing mechanisms for easy classroom transition of chapters including customisation of applications, teachers training, video tutorials etc."
The Kerala IT@School GNU/Linux Operating System is a distribution based on Ubuntu and is pre-loaded in all laptops and desktops for schools. Beyond normal Operating System functionalities this is an integrated package that contains applications like Office packages, Database applications ,DTP, Graphics and Imaging software, Sound recording, Video editing , Animation packages, Integrated Development Environment (IDEs) for programming, Web Server & Database server, Geographical Information System ( GIS) etc. This also contains Educational software like Geogebra, Phet, Stellarium , Kalzium, Marble, Razmol, Gplates, Gcomprise, Pysio Game, Dr Geo, Celestia etc.The proprietary version of these software would have incurred a minimum cost of Rs.1.5 lakh per machine in terms of License Fee. Hence the minimum savings in a year (considering 20000 machines ) is Rs 300 crore.
Students' IT club
Kerala's IT@School Project has launched a student IT Club, that will cover 1 lakh students this year and 2 lakhs by next year, making it the largest such IT network in India. Called ‘Hi School Kuttikootam’ ( Student IT Club Network), it is an initiative to boost the activities and interests of students in ICT enabled learning, thereby making it effective and more popular. This programmes will provide students with an experience of group learning as well as collaborative learning, to improve the efficiency of ICT enabled education in schools, to ensure students participations in resolving the technical issues in schools, safe usage of internet and building awareness on cyber crimes etc.
Various organisations such as Google (Internet Safety ), Start-up Mission ( Electronics) ,Swathanthra Malayalam Computing etc have ensured their support in these activities.
A minimum of 20 students from each school should be inducted to this programme as members. The first phase of the training programmes would be completed before March 31. Detailed training programmes would be initiated during the vacation period.