Romania's Ministry of Education urges the country's schools to consider switching to open source solutions such as the Ubuntu distribution. This will help the schools to avoid legal problems with using unlicensed copies of proprietary software, the ministry confirmed today.
The new policy follows the expiration of an agreement between the ministry and a vendor of proprietary software. Without this agreement, some schools can no longer continue to use the most recent versions of the vendor's software products, including a ubiquitous proprietary PC and server operating system and a proprietary office suite.
The ministry is now urging schools to revert to earlier versions, purchase new licences for the proprietary software in use, or to switch to open source alternatives.
"Schools are to un-install all software without a valid license and to confirm the completion of this action by getting an un-install statement. The Ministry of National Education has made this request to the school inspectors", a spokesperson for the ministry confirmed today.
According to the spokesperson, the ministry is not insisting that schools switch to the Ubuntu software distribution. "The choice is up to the schools."
Free software enthusiasts on an Romanian online discussion forum pointed to documents available on the ministry's software licensing platform. "For the first time, this platform points school administrators to open source solutions. Options include the Edubuntu distribution, a version of Ubuntu tailored for use in schools."
On the forum, one of the participants, with access to the ministry's licensing platform, re-posted the ministry's list of open source applications that are part of the 12.04 version of Edubuntu and that can be used in classrooms.
According to this source, the ministry commented that the list is an experiment. The poster, quoting the ministry: "Until we can provide national support for this product, including localization in Romanian and national minority languages, the decision to use this distribution is up to each school."
The ministry's software licensing platform itself uses open source solutions, including the Linux operating system and the Nginx web server.
Two weeks ago, a Romanian TV news program reported that schools in the country are neglecting Ubuntu-based laptops donated by a supermarket chain. According to the TV station, some 900 laptops have never been used because teachers don't know how to use Linux.