Can kids use Linux distributions? And is it suitable for school use?
Well, that depends on what are your options and what you choose to go with. No matter whether you want something for a kid or the school teacher, there are options available.
Hence, to give you a head start, we have curated a list of the best Linux distributions tailored for education.
Best Linux Distribution for Kids
For a kid, a distribution has to offer a user-friendly UI minus the advanced functionalities.
You may argue that it can be done with any mainstream, beginner-friendly distro like Ubuntu, or Mint. You are right, but if a distribution comes with essential tools necessary for education baked in, it makes things easy and convenient.
1. Endless OS
Endless OS is a popular option to go for as a Linux distro tailored for education.
It is based on Debian and uses a GNOME desktop environment. Even though it restricts usage of its OS on more than five hundred computers in a year, it is free to download.
The user interface is easy to use and looks attractive for installation on a modern PC. You get a variety of applications pre-installed. Hence, this comes in handy for computers with no internet access.
Ubermix is an Ubuntu-based Linux distribution that aims to reduce the complexity by tweaking the user interface, getting rid of unnecessary apps, and adding essential tools/apps for education.
It also offers a way to easily recover from a system issue in case there is a problem. An optional parental control feature is present for content filtering and screen time controls, which is indeed useful.
Ubermix is actively maintained and provides plenty of instructions for installation and troubleshooting on its official website.
3. Zorin OS 16 Education
Zorin OS offers an education edition tailored for schools and universities, in some cases.
With Zorin OS 16 Education (with GNOME), you get plenty of offline content, which makes educational resources accessible in areas even without a proper internet connection. It also supports sharing the resources through the network using peer-to-peer techniques.
In addition to the tech behind offline-ready content, it includes several open-source applications and offers the ability to download resources from a variety of sources like Khan Academy.
Apps like OpenBoard and interactions through the projector or a screen. You also find apps for specific topics, like the ability to calculate things or organize them.
Zorin OS Education also provides a Lite version (based on XFCE) for systems that come with dated/low-end hardware. So, with either the full/lite edition, you can start enjoying the distro made for education.
4. Kano OS (for Raspberry Pi)
Kano is a computing kit tailored for educating children from 6 to 14 years. It’s like a premium version of Raspberry Pi with plenty of DIY and coding activities for the young ones.
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Kano also has Debian based operating system for Raspberry Pi. You don’t need to have a Kano kit for this purpose. You can use it on your Raspberry Pi.
It aims to provide the benefits of it—curated for education when coupled with their computer kits. Ranging from coding apps to games, there should be something for everyone.
You will also find useful parental control settings to limit/tweak the experience for your kid. For additional help, the official help resources will come in handy as well.
5. AcademiX GNU/Linux
Yet another distribution based on Debian focused on learning.
Not just for primary-level education, but the programs included in the operating system should be useful for university students as well. It also includes virtual interactive labs and a virtual microscope.
While it makes learning easy with the utilities pre-installed, teachers can also use it to create content and publish.
So, it can be an all-in-one choice for a lot of potential learners and teachers in school.
6. Sugar (makes any distro kids friendly)
Sugar is not a full-fledged OS but a learning platform (environment) that can be installed on top of any Linux distro to set it up for learning.
Not just to help your kid learn with an easy-to-use interface, it also helps collaborating, sharing, and learning pre-installed software tools.
It is also available for Raspberry Pi computers. And a Flatpak package lets you easily install some of its activities in any Linux distribution.
Linux for education (Li-f-e) was originally a project by OpenSUSE and this is a continuation of that.
Even though it is not backed by OpenSUSE now (I couldn’t find any references), it could be a useful option for kids and schools.
This is based on Ubuntu MATE and offers several built-in applications as per some of the textbooks. It does not offer anything extraordinary but more like Ubuntu for education, which is actively maintained at the time of writing this.
Best Linux Distribution for Schools
The ones I mentioned so far were tailored to be used by children for their education and learning. But education has two parts: students and teachers.
This is why this list is divided into two parts. This second part lists some options that can be a good fit for school administrators, management, and teachers.
Of course, you can always use Linux Mint, elementary OS, or Ubuntu if you want to utilize a stable and reliable Linux desktop OS to manage your school (or) content creation. However, there are some choices that are customized for the purpose.
1. Debian Edu/Skolelinux
Skolelinux is a Debian-based distribution that comes packed with several applications and networking services fit for students and teachers in school.
It is also known as Debian Edu. You get the ability to opt for offline installation by downloading the required ISO or the base system with online installation for the rest.
Even though kids can use it after setup, it requires a bit of learning curve to configure and maintain. Hence, this is more inclined towards school administrators or teachers than kids.
2. Zorin OS 16 Education
While I mentioned it is a good fit for kids, you can also use it for schools and universities.
It gives you the ability to keep an eye on what your students are doing to make sure that they are interacting with the learning tasks assigned. Zorin OS Education utilizes Veyon to achieve that.
Of course, it is highly unlikely that you would need that for kids. But, when it comes to schools, the ability to manage other connected computers, along with useful educational tools/resources should be a perfect choice.
3. Linux Schools (Karoshi Server)
A Linux distribution with the perks of Ubuntu LTS built for school servers. If you want to setup a server and monitor/control a network of connected servers, Linux Schools (or Karoshi Server) is a good fit.
It lets you administer a network of servers using a web interface. You do not need in-depth knowledge about Linux system administration to utilize it.
3. Escuelas Linux
Escuelas Linux is based on Bodhi Linux. It comes baked in with several applications fit for educational environments.
It has custom tools for resetting the distro to the post-installed state in seconds. There are also options to reinstate users. Apart from that, it comes with applications for distributing educational material within the network, screen broadcasting, mirroring, remote command execution, message sending, screen locking, and muting sound to the students’ computers.
Considering it is based on Bodhi Linux, which is one of the best lightweight Linux distros, this can be a good pick for older systems.
It supports both 64-bit and 32-bit systems, so you should not have any issues installing in a variety of hardware.
You will also find a separate Developer Pack of the distribution to be able to access Android Studio, Eclipse, NetBeans, Git, SQLite, and many other development-focused applications.
In addition to these options, there is also EduBOSS, an education version of BOSS Linux which is tailored for Indian schools, if that is relevant to you.
While there are 100s of Linux distributions, only a handful exist that are specially crafted for education.
It is a good thing that there are some viable options for students, teachers, and school administration.
After all, Linux can be used everywhere and by anyone. Am I right?