Sweden's schools teachers and students seem unable to separate the digital formats of their documents from the software they use to write and read such documents, concludes Björn Lundell, a researcher from the University of Skövde. Based on preliminary figures from a survey of schools in the country, he sees " significant IT vendor lock-in."
The researcher collected a first round of answers from an email-based survey sent to 290 municipalities that together support about 5000 primary and secondary schools. Based on these results Lundell shared some early conclusions, in a presentation during the ODF Plugfest in Brussels earlier this month.
Many of Sweden's schools expect their teachers and pupils to use a variety of proprietary file formats, Lundell summarises. He says that is exactly the opposite of the country's policies. "Students should expect to be able to use open file formats in public sector schools."
The researcher is asking all schools for details concerning their use of IT in education. On the topic of electronic documents, he wants to know if schools require certain file formats or applications. He is asking all schools: "Which school work document formats are students in primary and secondary education required to manage in order to read, write and edit documents and to be able to exchange these documents with teachers and other students?"
Lundell referred to the Swedish government's directives and its policy on open standards. These instruct public services to use IT tools based on open standards free from intellectual property constraints and to make public organisations independent from IT vendors.
Schools however replied to Lundell that there are no guidelines or policies, or that their school does not have a policy, or that the document format depends on the type of office tool used. One school replied: "It feels like a leading question. Our municipality uses the (proprietary) Office suite, and all users, staff students and other personnel are expected to use it." Several school returned a list of proprietary documents formats, or simple referred to a proprietary office suite.
Lundell does not expect his research to be completed before autumn. "This is based on the first round of answers. I still need to chase a lot of schools over their response."
ODF Plugfest site