Last Friday, 24th of April, the foundations for vendor independent ICT education in the Netherlands were laid down. Initiated by the Free Knowledge Institute, Ecabo and Vocational Education centre ROC Mondriaan, more than 20 representatives from some of the key institutes for VET and Higher education (MBO and HBO in Dutch), from government and several companies specialised in GNU/Linux certification and training participated in this first meeting.
Currently education in ICT is very much product oriented, while society calls for professionals that understand concepts and can easily move from one technology to another, as product life cycles in ICT are short. Free Software is then the choice many argue, as it provides opportunities to study the concepts and how these are applied. It provides the freedom to do business without depending on any particular vendor and it addresses the growing need for skilled professionals in Free Software and Open Standards. Participants in the meeting observed that the need for such professionals is growing quickly, as can be seen at various municipalities.
As has been argued by Manuel Castells and others, a lack of knowledge is the main factor holding back the massive adoption of Free Software. Teachers who want to teach their students about Free Software are confronted with several challenges, among which we see:
- system administrators who are lacking the skills about Free Software applications and can or do not give support ;
- teachers lack the educational materials or don’t know where to find them, as they are still fragmented in space and language ;
- many teachers lack the knowledge to guide their students on these topics and in many cases it is the students who take the initiative
- the ICT coordinators and school managers lack the awareness of important these concepts and a general vision about ICT
It is these factors that need to be addressed. Therefore an integral plan is being worked out to help those teachers who want to take the lead in this movement. More news will follow soon!
References (in Dutch):
- ECABO article at Loket MBO ICT about the Free Technology Education plan: http://loketmboict.nl/index.jsp?mode=nieuwsdetail&rasterid=10151&nav_id=1374
- The Netherlands Open in Connection (NOiV programme) from the Dutch government: http://noiv.nl/node/65674