Gnu education

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This page was the initial draft on the use of free software in schools. The comprehensive documents are now published in the education section of If you would like to join us, send us an email to <>.

Free Software in Education

“Schools should teach their students to be citizens of a strong, capable, independent and free society.”

Freedom and cooperation are essential values of Free Software. The GNU system implements these principles in educational institutions of all levels.

The GNU Project was launched in 1983 by Richard Stallman to develop a Free Libre operating system: the GNU operating system. As a result, today it is possible for anyone to use a computer in freedom.

How does free software relate to education?

Free software has an especially important connection with universities and schools of all levels.

The mission of every school and university is to disseminate human knowledge, and the source code and the methods of free software are part of human knowledge.

Free software is not just a technical question, it is an ethical, social, and political question. It is a question of the human rights that the users of software ought to have.

On the contrary, proprietary software is secret, restricted knowledge. This is the opposite of the mission of the school. Free software supports education, proprietary software forbids education.

If you are wondering why software should be Free (as in freedom), here is the answer.

Why Educational Institutions Should Use Exclusively Free Software

These are some of the main reasons:


Schools should teach the value of sharing by setting an example. Free software supports education by allowing the sharing of knowledge and tools:

  • Knowledge

Many young students have a talent for programing; they are fascinated with computers and eager to learn how their systems work. With proprietary software, this information is a secret so teachers have no way of making it available to their students. But if it is free software, the teacher can explain the basic subject and then hand out the source code for the student to read and learn.

  • Tools.

Teachers can hand out to students copies of the programs they use in the classroom so that they can use them at home. With free software, copying is not only authorized, it is encouraged.

Social Responsibility

Computing has become an essential part of everyday life. Digital technology is transforming society very quickly, and schools have an influence on the future of society. Their mission is to get students ready to participate in a free digital society by teaching them the skills to make it easy for them to take control of their own lives. Software should not be under the power of a software developer who unilaterally makes decisions that nobody else can change. Educational institutions should not allow proprietary software companies to impose their power on the rest of society and its future.


Schools have an ethical responsibility to teach strength, not dependency on a single product or a specific powerful company. Furthermore, by choosing to use free software, the school itself gains independence from any commercial interests and it avoids vendor lock-in.

  • Proprietary software companies use schools and universities as a springboard to reach users and thus impose their software on society as a whole. They offer discounts, or even gratis copies of their proprietary programs to educational institutions; afterwards it is not gratis, either for them or their employers. Essentially, what these companies are doing is they are recruiting schools and universities into agents to lead people into permanent lifelong dependency.
  • Free software licenses do not expire, which means that once free software is adopted, institutions remain independent from the vendor. Moreover, free software licenses grant users the rights not only to use the software as they wish, to copy it and distribute it, but also to modify it in order to meet their own needs. Therefore, if institutions eventually wish to implement a particular function in a piece of software, they can engage the services of any developer to accomplish the task, independently from the original vendor.


When deciding where they will study, more and more students are considering whether a university teaches computer science and software development using free software. Free software means that students are free to study how the programs work and to learn how to adapt them for their own needs. Learning about free software also helps in studying software development ethics and professional practice.


This is an obvious advantage that will appeal immediately to many school administrators, but it is a marginal benefit. The main point of this aspect is that by being authorized to distribute copies of the programs at little or no cost, schools can actually aid families facing financial issues, thus promoting fairness and equal opportunities of learning among students.


Stable, secure and easily installed free software solutions are available for education already. In any case, excellence of performance is a secondary benefit; the ultimate goal is freedom for computer users.

An article by Richard Stallman on the subject: Why Schools Should Exclusively Use Free Software

Case Studies

Here we include some stories of classrooms and courses where free software is being used.

Is your school or university committed to free software? Has your school or university migrated to the GNU/Linux operating system or has it adopted a firm policy of rejecting proprietary software? Do you know of a free-software oriented university or school? If so, we want to hear from you. Please contact us at <> to let us know. Tell us about it so that we can list it here.

  • Schools

Free Horizon Montessori in Arvada, Colorado has 63 GNU/Linux user systems, plus 6 GNU/Linux servers. Their favorite apps are Ktouch, TuxTyping, and Tuxmath.

An elementary school in Ehlerange, in the Sanem commune of Luxembourg, has a classroom of 28 kids (6-8 years old) with 8 computers running GNU/Linux.

The ECEN (Escuela Cristiana Evangélica de Neuquén) is a Christian school located in the capital city of Neuquén, in the Argentine Patagonia region. The school has migrated to the GNU operating system all 40 work stations for students as well as desktopts in the school library and offices.

  • Universitites

Free Software and Other Education Resources

We maintain a list of free software and other resources for education and more. There are probably many more not listed here, please let us know! <>.

  • Software

Some GNU programs specially designed for education:

  • Learning

It's about bringing the principles of free software to educational materials and otherwise general knowledge.

Sugar Labs provides the Sugar Learning Environment, promoting sharing, collaborative learning, and reflection.

The Free Technology Academy offers an online master level programe with course modules about Free Technologies. Learners can choose to enroll in an individual course or register for the whole programme. Tuition takes place online in the FTA virtual campus and is performed by teaching staff from the partner universities. Credits obtained in the FTA programe are recognized by these universities. The full master programe can be concluded at one of the universities."

Other Groups and Projects

There are several groups and projects that are working with Free Software in Education and follow the GNU Philosophy. A few of them are listed below. If your project supports only free software and it is not listed here, please send an email to <>.

  • India (!no link available yet for India but there will be!)
  • OFSET, the Organization for Free Software in Education and Teaching, promotes the use of free software in education.