Partnership with Microsoft: Unworthy of the Values the French National Education Advocates

Paris, December 3, 2015, Press release.

On November 30, 2015, the French Minister of National Education, Higher Education and Research, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, announced that the Ministry and Microsoft had signed a partnership [fr]. The organisations signing this Press Release hereby condemn a collusion of interest: this partnership plans to once more present proprietary software and closed formats to students as indispensable tools, thus advocating dependence as a model. This will strengthen the US company's dominant position to the detriment of free software and open formats, despite their respect for elementary principles of neutrality and interoperability.

The complete text of the agreement is available on the Ministry's website [fr]. It revolves around several points, among which teachers' training for mastering Microsoft's environment in school, as well as the provision of a Cloud ecosystem and of an e-learning platform. Likewise, coding will be taught under the supervision of the American company. This truly amounts to complete control of IT at school, without any consultation of the education stakeholders, including internally.

In this agreement, no provision whatsoever was made by either party for taking into consideration the work of support, teaching, and research staff. Yet they are most knowledgeable about the needs of students, their management, and the data-sharing constraints in their institution; they have accumulated a considerable expertise that the agreement plans to ignore, in order to “train” managers and teachers into the technologies that they seek to impose. Likewise, no account is taken of the appeal in favour of open formats in education [fr]. This appeal was supported by professional associations of teachers as well as unions, businesses and individuals, yet it was set aside.

This is not the first time this type of partnership is signed: a similar agreement had been signed [fr] as early as 2005. But the present partnership is all the more pathetic that it comes after the recent exposure of Microsoft-aided spying and Microsoft's policy for collecting the personal data of users [fr].

The present partnership is all the more unfortunate that it runs counter to the goals of the school system, and attests to a lack of political will for promoting knowledge dissemination and its appropriation by everybody. Yet an assertive political could have put forward free software solutions which respect everybody's freedom, open standards, and interoperability, allowing students to acquire expertise in the field of IT without technological lock-in. This proposition was among those which received support in Axelle Lemaire's “Digital Republic” draft bill consultation. School is becoming a manufacture of inequality, since money is going to be the key to choosing software and services thereafter.

At the end of 2011, François Hollande had made youth “the great cause of the presidential election”1. Once more, obviously, youth and the shaping of minds are being sacrificed to the economic interests of big US corporations.

Signatory organisations:

You can support this text by adding your signature, by clicking the link below (Please be aware that the petition website is in French only)

Je soutiens ce communiqué