Open-source Proponents Blast Proprietary Software in Dutch Schools

Dutch education authorities have decided to throw out their government's open standards policy and instead lock in to Microsoft proprietary software for years to come, according to open-source advocates.

Marja Bijsterveldt, the Netherlands' secretary of education, said that she was unwilling to force open standards on educational institutions, sparking an outcry from open-source advocates who say that Dutch students using free software or devices without Silverlight-support will find themselves locked out of schools' online systems.

The open standards policy was approved by the Dutch Parliament in 2007, but has not been fully implemented. Now, free software advocates are starting a new battle to make the use of open standards mandatory for all publicly funded institutions.

Students who complain about being locked out of their school's system are being advised to buy the proprietary Microsoft Windows OS, said For Free Software advocate Jan Stedehouder. "This behavior is not only unacceptable but also illegal. Our campaign aims at passing new legislation to ensure the mandatory use of open standards in education, to make sure that students have access to the free technology they deserve."

"Though this problem is all too common around the world, the Dutch government's stance is particularly disappointing," said Karsten Gerloff, president of Free Software Foundation Europe. "The Netherlands have some of the most progressive policies on free software and open standards in the world. But the education ministry utterly fails to implement them. I can well understand that Dutch parliamentarians are dissatisfied and want to push for a more robust policy."

Open-source advocates are concerned that students will miss out on learning real computing skills, instead relying on proprietary software "directions for use."

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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