FOSS School Pilot Project

Linux & FOSS in Schools

Project Management
The project is being handled by The Linux Center , an organization setup to widen use of FOSS & Linux in Sri Lanka, with the support of The Lanka Linux User Group (LKLUG).

Project start: July 2005
Project status: Closed
Review as of: February 2006

Project Coordinators:
Ven Mettavihari
Buddhika Siddhisena
Suchetha Wijenayake

Project Goals
To enable the computers provided to the schools under the ADB SEMP (Secondary Education Modernisation Project) to run Linux, and to promote the use of Linux in schools.

Schools in the Project
o Isipathana Vidyalaya, Colombo
o President's College, Rajagiriya
o Princess of Wales College, Moratuwa
o Piliyandala Central College, Piliyandala
o Veluwana Maha Vidyalaya, Borella

Project Plan

Step 1: Deciding on a Linux version
There are many variants of Linux, each of them suited to a certain activity. They also have different system requirements. This allows us to tailor the Linux distribution that was used to the needs of the school system. It was decided to install one version across the board so that there is consistency in the system

Initially it was decided to use RedHat Fedora Core 3 as the distribution of choice. But during the initial install at Princess of Wales College in Moratuwa, we discovered that the systems were not able to run Fedora efficiently due to a lack of memory and processing power. It was then decided to use Vector Linux 5.0 with specially compiled software instead.

Step 2: Installing Linux
Linux was installed in four of the five schools we chose. The only one we didn't install in was Veluwana MV since they didn't have a teacher for the CLC at the time.

We visited Veluwana on 3 occasions but they had not yet received the new CLC teacher at any of the times.

Step 3: Teacher Training
This part of the project is still continuing. While we have only done on-site training at Princess of Wales College, we have made a special point of inviting teachers and students from the project schools to all the FOSS events in Sri Lanka.

The Teacher training itself turns out to be more of a Teacher/senior student training class as we have had very great enthusiasm from the senior students in the schools. These senior students are proving to be a valuable asset to the project, and we hope to conduct advanced training for them in the future

Step 4: School-based Advocacy
In order to build an interest for Linux in the schools, and among the students, we are organising events that students and teachers will be invited for. It is also planned to have events at the more rural schools where we hold presentations on Linux and Free Software.

The details of this project is given in more detail in a separate project report.

Problems Encountered
Computers that cannot run Linux
There are always a few computers at the CLC's that we cannot install Linux on. We are unsure as to what the problem is. We would like to work with the hardware providers to resolve this issue as it often seems to be defective CD-Rom Drives.

Administrative apathy
Generally there is an amount of administrative apathy in the schools. This coupled with internal politics makes it difficult to increase the level of Linux usage in the schools themselves.

We believe that this will change as the starf are introduced to Linux in a greater way.

However in the schools we have been working with, we have been fortunate that many of the teachers have been extremely enthusiastic about Linux and are very forward-thinking.

Lack of teacher enthusiasm
While the CLC teachers are usually very enthusiastic about Linux, many of the other teachers do not share this enthusiasm. They are not willing to use the computers as a teaching tool, or to increase their knowledge on the use of the computers

FOSS/Linux awareness in the curriculum
While a very good job has been done on the development of a curriculum for the GIT, we feel the need to develop it further by generating FOSS/Linux awareness in the curriculum and we shall be glad to help in any further development required.

A reason that the students and teachers do not show adequate interest in Linux and FOSS in schools could well be attributed to the lack of presence of FOSS/Linux in the GIT curriculum.

The Future of the Project
We are very enthusiastic and optimistic about the future of the project. The positive response we have received from the teachers and the students has encouraged us to continue our work, and to increase the effort we put into it. The teaching projects will be put into hiatus as the Advanced Level examinations are coming due, but will restart immediately after the April vacations.

We would in the future like to see this project developed to having a member of our Linux staff visiting the schools on regular intervals to support the teachers and students in further development of Open Source awareness.

General comments
This is a costly project for a volunteer organization to undertake and perhaps we could see some way of contributions coming from the Ministry to cover our travelling expenses and a small staff payment. This could be part of a future plan that could be developed after we finish this pilot project.

The project will be of great advantage to the country as the use of Linux is saving foreign exchange on import of software.

Giving the students an awareness of alternatives that they would otherwise never have received is a very important part of this project. This awareness is necessary to develop a future generation for the challenges that they have to meet when they leave school.

Linux Center Management