Anger at dropping of open source for matric CAT, IT

2013-10-11 08:01
(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - The department of basic education's change of policy regarding the teaching of computer applications technology (CAT) has not been well received.

The department announced that it would phase out the use of open source software in the CAT and information technology curriculums through to 2016.

"Today I received a copy of a Circular S9/2013 from the Department of Basic Education (DBE) that made me as angry as I have ever been in my life," wrote Derek Keats, director of Kenga Solutions and chief scientist at

"In effect it destroyed any initiative in schools that offer the subjects 'Computer Applications Technology' (CAT) and 'Information Technology' (IT) and that use open source software," he added.

The circular, signed by DBE acting director general SG Padayachee, says that Microsoft Office products will exclusively be used to assess the curriculum in CAT and IT in the national senior certificate (NSC) examinations.

NSC outcomes

"As the standardisation of the CAT tools do not require any training or new resources, from January 2014, and November 2014, the DBE will only use Microsoft Office to respectively implement the CAT curriculum and assess CAT as part of the NSC examinations," the document says, potentially making open source programs redundant as far as the curriculum is concerned.

"For CAT, the DBE has indicated that only Microsoft Office can be used and that this will only be MSO2010 and MSO2013 as from 2014. I learned that in IT they have dumped Java, effectively from 2013, and have prescribed Delphi, a language that is not in general use today and is basically Pascal with a Graphical User Interface," wrote Keats.

The circular was careful to point out that in other grades, any software tool that was appropriate could still be used, but it is likely that teachers will focus on the outcomes suitable for the NSC exams.

It is likely that the dominance of commercial programs has convinced the department that open source alternatives are inferior to popular software solutions.

There is also a significant cost saving that can accrue to government as Microsoft heavily discounts its Office and other programs for educational users.

Comment on the policy change from the DBE was not in time for publication.

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Read more on:    microsoft  |  technology  |  computing
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