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Free software a priority in education says French parliament

Marianne - symbol of the French RepublicThe Senate and the National Assembly, the two houses of the French parliament, have agreed to make free software a priority for education, according to Joinup, the EU’s public sector open source news website. This Wednesday last the National Assembly confirmed a proposal by the Senate urging higher education institutions to give preference to free and open source software. However, the plan still needs to be accepted by the government.

France’s senators have been urging the government to make free and open source software a priority in education for the past 2 months. In response, the government has indicated that it is prepared to encourage schools and universities in the use of free software and open document formats. However, this is not enough for the Upper House, which wants free software to be mandatory.

Last month senators unsuccessfully tried adding free software use to plans for reorganising state schools; this week the Senate included it in proposals for higher education and research.

The first proposal was watered down by the government when it came up for discussion in the National Assembly. Senators are hoping to succeed this time as their plan has now been accepted by a joint committee of both houses. The proposal will be voted on next week.

April, a French free software advocacy group, is following developments closely and has welcomed the Senate’s recognition of the importance of free software. “We hope that the government is not going to make any new attempt at reversing this encouragement.”

Unfortunately, the French government is resisting the Senate’s push for free software, alleging that it breaks European procurement rules (really? That’s a strange interpretation of those rules. Ed.). April says such a requirement is perfectly legal. “It was validated by the Conseil d’État (French administrative supreme court) in its decision of 30th September 2011. We urge the French government to publish a detailed legal analysis.”