The International Open Source Network (IOSN), which is part of the UN's development programme, published the guide to free and open source software in education last week. The FOSS Education Primer explains the advantages of using open source software and gives information on server and desktop software that can be used in education.
The guide says the advantages of open source software include lower costs; the opportunity for students to learn about programming by examining and modifying the source code; and better reliability than proprietary software.
"The development methodology of FOSS [free / open source software] tends to assure high quality of the software," says the guide. "Bugs are removed with the help of large numbers of developers, and the resulting software is more reliable. This is especially true of the more mature FOSS for servers."
The guide -- which can be seen here -- has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which allows other organisations to copy and distribute the work. Last year the IOSN released a guide to using Linux on the desktop for novice PC users.
The UK government is also encouraging the use of open source software in education. At last week's BETT trade show Ruth Kelly, the secretary of state for education and skills, said in her keynote speech that open source software can be useful in education. "We believe that high quality and well supported open source solutions have a valuable role to play in education," said Kelly.
At the same show SchoolLINUX.com, a company which develops Linux tools for schools, was inundated with requests for its open source desktop operating system for schools.