FLOSS Is A Winner For Education

You know how it is. You are part of a large hierarchical organization and some boss sends a memo that makes your day…
“In 2010, after being told that the current commercial Student Information System (called BCeSIS) used by 95% of the school districts in British Columbia was being discontinued and the district would have to transition to a new one, the Saanich school district decided to take matters into their own hands.
The district had seen at least five proprietary SISs come and go over the past 20 years, and each time the transition to a new system was costly and labor intensive. The last switch cost Saanich about $800,000 for training and staff time — not including licensing fees — while a neighboring district spent approximately $1.2 million.”

see The Open Source School District | Code for America.

Instead of shopping for yet another expensive non-Free solution, Saanich school district made its own, built from FLOSS building blocks. If they had done that last time, when BCeSIS was forced on them, the province would have saved more than $100million on education. If it was feasible for a single district to do that, imagine how cheap it would be to collaborate with other districts to share the cost.

A pilot of the new school information system rolled out in May.

Unfortunately, the organization has chosen to keep the source code private until the first release, so we cannot know more about the code itself… Apparently a few districts have sufficient resources to produce the code in a reasonable length of time so they don’t need outside input and they do want features they need. That’s not unreasonable for a start-up faced with certain critical needs but it’s not a good long-term plan considering how universal education is.

Still, schools can and do use FLOSS to get the job done and they save greatly in money and time and get a better system.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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One Response to FLOSS Is A Winner For Education

  1. JD says:

    This is a very interesting approach. I wish more provinces in Canada would wake up and take a similar approach to software. The cost savings would be incredible.

    From a quick peek at the beta website, it seems to be running JSF with Richfaces, so it looks like its going to be built with Java. We’ll have to wait and see to find out what else they are using.

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