Cape Town - The Department of Basic Education has withdrawn its controversial decision to allow the use of only Microsoft Office and programming language Delphi for computer-based subjects at schools.
In October, this decision was met with much unhappiness from advocates for free and open-source software (Foss).
It had been decided that schools that offered computer applications technology (CAT) and information technology (IT) would have to use MS Office 2010 and 2013 software from this year.
In addition, it had been decided that the programming language used in IT would be changed from Java to Delphi incrementally in 2015 and 2016.
But the department did an about-turn last month, according to a circular signed by acting director-general Paddy Padayachee, which was distributed in the education sector about three weeks ago.
“The Department of Basic Education, after considering management and policy related matters, as well as concerns expressed by several education stakeholders, has decided to withdraw Circular S9 of 2013, dated September 9, 2013.
“This circular announced the standardisation of software tools to implement and access Computer Applications Technology (CAT) and Information Technology (IT),” read the circular.
“Circular S9 of 2013 is therefore withdrawn with immediate effect and the status quo will be retained.
“The DBE will institute the necessary processes to address the challenges experienced by the sector with regard to CAT and IT.”
Derek Keats, who worked at technology companies Kenga Solutions and thumbzup, had been outspoken in his criticism of the department’s decision.
He gave a presentation at a meeting with the department on December 6 outlining why he felt the decision should be withdrawn.
Keats had also said a group should be appointed to review the curriculum of these subjects and how they could be made more attractive to pupils.
He welcomed the department’s decision to withdraw the changes.
“This past month or so, a number of us came together as Foss businesses, activists, and concerned citizens to challenge the DBE on the contents of Circular S9.
“It seems that DBE listened,” Keats wrote on his blog, dkeats.com.
“We have just learned that the Circular S9 that mandated proprietary technologies exclusively for CAT and IT has been withdrawn.
“We do not yet know what will come in its place, or what action DBE will take.
“We can only hope that they begin to see that education and freedom are linked in both directions, and that it is time for them to take a leadership role in insuring that this synergy happens.”
According to the Department of Basic Education, one percent of matrics took IT and nine percent took CAT. - Cape Times