Sleeping with the Multinationals

I was fairly shocked when I was made aware of this press release from the Department of Education.  Twenty graduates of technology or teacher training college courses are to get work placement positions in Microsoft Ireland to help develop digital material for the school curriculum as part of a deal signed by the Minister for Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe TD.

The 20 graduates, who will be based in Microsoft Ireland headquarters in Dublin, will develop digital content to support the curriculum in primary and post-primary schools through the NCTE.

Now, on the face of it, this seems like a very noble gesture by both the DES and Microsoft.  However, without needing to scratch the surface very much, this little arrangement must not be doing Microsoft’s pockets any harm.  I’ve nothing against Microsoft but I think using the ineptitude of our government for their personal gain isn’t very fair on smaller companies, especially those already involved in educational content.

There are a number of very small companies in Ireland making a living from selling educational software.  Some of these are: Rainbow Education, Learning Horizons, Edware and Flúirse.  Why weren’t these companies with excellent reputations and fantastic work ethics given the opportunity to have graduates funded to work for them?

Worse yet, this isn’t the last of this newMicrosoft-DES love in.  According to the press release, the graduate training places are among a number of key elements in the ‘education alliance’ agreed between Microsoft Ireland and the Department of Education and Science.

So for all those who haven’t seen it coming, what’s the catch?

The education alliance agreement will bring extra benefits to schools using Microsoft products under a yearly licensing agreement.  Let’s repeat that… “under a yearly licencing agreement”.

I foresee profits.

0 thoughts on “Sleeping with the Multinationals”

  1. Interesting point Simon. But why aren’t these companies involved themselves – why didn’t they approach the DES?

    I agree that the government is giving far to much to private enterprise without think of the long term – e.g. the M50 toll (which we’ll have to pay for twice), the already redundant 3G “boredband” rollout with 3 at huge cost, etc

    At the end of the day Microsoft does set a standard – the ECDL is based on it. Those arguing in favour of OpenSource/Shareware need to know that this software copies a lot of innovations developed by Microsoft. I can’t see how learning about Microsoft is bad. Many programmers in the 30-50 bracket learned their trade for Microsoft tools like C++ – whether or not they still programme on these platforms or work in open source.

    But a good point to encourage other Irish companies to pay-it-forward and get involved!

    • I’ve nothing against Microsoft products but I do have a problem with the plans to make schools pay more licencing fees for the products that will be coming out of this project. It also cements Microsoft’s power in the education sector. If I choose not to use Microsoft as my operating system, where do I stand? Will the government force me to install Windows on every machine because their endorsed products only work on their platform?

  2. Well stated Simon

    for some reason any reference to ICT in Education from the Minister seems to only ever incorporate HP and Microsoft, not that this is a problem, but as you said, what about the many other Irish education companies?

    • Isn’t this something yourselves along with the other Irish software companies could do something about? Couldn’t you write a joint press release? There are quite a number of small Irish educational software companies.

  3. I question how useful graduates who have never taught in a classroom will be in developing digital material…

    They will have had limited exposure to material that already exists and haven’t had the teaching experience to be in a position to identify gaps in the market?

    • I totally agree with you AdoAnnie. Businesses like Microsoft don’t care about education first. They care about money first, then everything else after. If Microsoft were hiring experienced teachers with sound pedagogy behind them, I think this might work. Hiring techie students will only give us products that they think classrooms need – i.e. classrooms they would have been in 15 years previously.

  4. I’m very surprised, even more shocked that it’s part of the government’s graduate back-to-work scheme. Small business cannot even access this scheme as you need more than 10 employees to be eligible, so this rules out almost all the indigenous Irish education software producers.

    Depending on what content is produced under this scheme, it could in the long run force small Irish education providers to either divert their resources to other markets or give up, which damages choice and Irish produced content, many also produced as Gaeilge.
    I do hope that Microsoft will use the 20 graduates to create systems that aid the administration of schools, Simon has outlined the need for these in earlier articles.

    It is strange that the current curriculum providers weren’t offered the opportunity or even contacted in relation to this scheme. From the graduate’s point of view, there is a shortage of technology graduates as it stands in Ireland. So I’d be surprised if many avail of this scheme to get social welfare, when they could earn more working for industry.

    Have a great Christmas everyone, Luke

    • Thanks Luke for that. I’d be cautious of Microsoft developing administrative tools for schools due to their reliance of running the Microsoft Operating System. Schools are beginning to see some of the advantages of Macs and Linux based systems over MS so the product would have to run on any system… maybe an online one? However, I can’t see Microsoft toeing the line here.

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