South African schools forced down Microsoft path

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South African schools forced down Microsoft path

Walking away from open source.

South Africa's educational authority has decided to only allow Microsoft software in schools from next year, a move that may shut out Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). 

The country's Department of Basic Education (DBE) said that from January next year, only Microsoft Office 2010 and Office 2013 or newer versions could be used to implement the Computer Applications Technology and Information Technology curricula.

While older versions of Microsoft Office run on open source emulation layers such as WINE, newer ones require the Windows proprietary operating system, which has to be licensed.

Programming will be taught in Delphi, an Apple Computer and Borland developed object-oriented extension of Pascal, a language that first appeared in the mid eighties. Neither is commonly used today, but the DBE has nevertheless mandated that Delphi will completely replace the newer Java programming language for teaching in schools by November 2016.

Open source advocate Dr Derek Keats, who first reported the DBE edict on his blog, called it "a shocking embarassment to our nation", decrying the Microsoft lock-in as creating "a whole generation of technology slavery".

Keats said the decision was against South African government policy recommendations to use free and open software [PDF] and would make IT education more expensive for parents of pupils.

On the decision to use Delphi, Keats said it "is a bit like mandating Latin as the language for literature".

"Teaching a moribund language is not going to excite anyone. It would be far better to teach something that is actually in use, and to allow young people to build real world applications for mobile phones, tablets, web applications, games," Keats wrote.

"Python, PHP, Java, Javascript... any 21st Century language would be better than Delphi. Any. Any at all," he said.

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