Plan Ceibal is Not an Educational Plan for Uruguay


I live in Uruguay, the emblematic country for the OLPC project. My daughter Emilia go to public school and has one XO. I have used the XO, and I am a regular Linux and Windows user.

I agree with the article, "OLPC: How not to run a laptop program". When XO began to deteriorate, the daddys began to "repair" with scotch tape. The keyboard replacement costs here about U$S10 , and the screen replacement about U$S20. Many can afford this costs; but the poor children not. Result: in months, poor children do not use more their XO.

olpc uruguay
Plan Ceibal: not so shiny and bright

Here we have the "Plan Ceibal". This plan, as stated by government agency LATU, is about giving connectivity and XO to all school children. This is NOT an educational plan.

Silently, the XO is forgotten in school classes, and teachers return to traditional teaching.

The children use their XO for playing music and platform games, like "Super Vampire Ninja Zero". Educational games are slow and Flash-based, and hated by children.

Software developers do not like to program in Python; they have background in Java, Flash, C, and not feel the necessity of learn a new slow interpreted language. Java is slow and consumes much of the XO "disk" space. Result: only a few government agencies or 2 or 3 great enterprises have developed bored and slow software for XO.

Children that have a PC in his homes do not like to use their XO.

Sugar is another problem. Nobody likes it. Is a pain trying to save all Journal entries using Journal. File handling is a torture. And volunteers always end erasing the entire children's Journal without backup because the XO rapidly ceases to work when Journal is full. They indirectly teach that children's files are without value.

I think that my country have spend too much money in OLPC. I think that regular informatics rooms with a dedicated professor will be a better choice. OLPC "plan" is not part of the school curricula. Nobody evaluates if each children have learned about informatics.

Alejandro Lavarello originally posted this comment on the Educational Technology Debate series "One Laptop Per Child Impact"


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Dios Mio!

Time for OLPC to read this article! I've said some of the same things, but an American saying these issues do not get heard! My inlaws and friends in Cali, Colombia want Spanish Disney websites and YouTube, and thus Flash! Even my 2 yr old watches Postman Pat videos online! The indestructible XO now breaking for poor, while the wealthier kids looking at it as out of date technology means it will fall into disuse!


The new Sugar on a stick shows great improvements to the earlier versions of Sugar given with the XO! I would suggest it might reduce some of the hair pulling file handling problems with a full journal. Yes, it even tells when the journal is full!

I'm in no position to confirm or dispute the author's claims since I have no first or second hand knowledge of the situation on the ground in Uruguay. The issues raised are pretty serious but unfortunately there are not any relevant references. I would suspect if things are indeed so bad a cohort of similar voices would be heard loud and clear by now. If not in English certainly in Spanish.
Is this the case? Could you please point to some relevant links (preferably beyond isolated voices?) that would provide some additional indication that this is at least a common sentiment, if not a fact, about Plan Ceibal among Uruguayans?.

Nothing to do with the "deterioration" issue. The project should ensure that cheap replacement parts are available. The children of course must be taught to care for their XOs.

The XO 1.5 will be a big step forward:
- It has a much stronger processor and much more RAM
- It will run Flash and Java with acceptable speed

Sola wrote:

"The XO 1.5 will be a big step forward:
- It has a much stronger processor and much more RAM
- It will run Flash and Java with acceptable speed"

What's the upgrade path and cost? Is Uruguay stuck with the first XO or will OLPC replace the defective units and if so at what cost?

What's the general upgrade policy?

As the developer of two programs that are regularly downloaded by sites in Uruguay (StarChart and ConstellationsFlashCards), I am not sure if I completely agree with your statements with regards to developers.

My own background was as a C++ developer for Windows. I had to teach myslef Python, which was painful and PyGTK which was even more so. But when I started coding StarChart in the early months of 2008, the OLPC Wiki had statements on it that seemed to be mandating that all Activities for the XO had to be written in Python. So I learned it. Any good software developer would have done the same, if that was what was required to ship the code. (I taught myself Java the same year because the company where I worked wanted a new component of a system which had been coded in Java.)

While I have no control over whether or not teachers integrate my programs (which are designed to help teach the basics of astronomy) into their (science) curriculum, I am certainly seeing interest in them. (StarChart is downloaded at a rate of 2000 or more a month.)

My programs run on the XO-1 under the Sugar shell, are written in Python and in the case of StarChart currently and ConstellationsFlashCards soon, have Spanish localization.

Of course Plan Ceibal is not an "educational plan." It was never intended to be such. Instead it is a plan to bring modern educational tools to the students of the public schools of Uruguay. The success of their use is up to the teachers and administration at each school.

As with any new thing in education, there will be teachers who are afraid of change and resist it at every turn. It sounds like your daughter had the bad luck to have a teacher that did not embrace the technology. It is too bad the teacher did not receive the support he or she needed to be successful.

That is partly the fault of you and the other parents. A study done in your country showed that one of the key factors in the success of Plan Ceibal was parental support of the program.

I have been following with great interest the wonderful stories of children in your country using their XOs to learn collaboratively, creatively, and even joyously. Their stories abound on the blogs, mailing lists, and reports from Plan Ceibal.

Instead of criticizing OLPC, why not try to improve things by encouraging better training of these reluctant teachers so that they may discover what wonderful tools for real learning the Sugar Activities are. If they can learn to use these with their students on their XOs, everyone will be much happier and the children may discover a true joy of discovery in learning.

Granny wrote:

"Plan Ceibal is not an 'educational plan.'[...] Instead it is a plan to bring modern educational tools to the students of the public schools of Uruguay"

That reasoning assumes that the XO is actually a "modern educational tool", which it is not.

Without any real educational software or curriculum integration plan, the XO is nothing more than a very expensive, underpowered, buggy laptop-wannabe.

These banana republics should ask themselves how come no first-world country has ever adopted the XO. Can Switzerland, France, Israel, USA, Germany, Russia, Canada, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Singapore, Japan, and every other developed country in the world be so wrong?

Nope. The banana republics are.

Negroponte never even thought of approaching civilized nations, because he knew they would not be so ignorant or corrupt that they would buy into his half-brained scheme. He targeted the poor and ignorant, where empty promises resonate loudest.

Well, you need to see what the National Science Foundation of the US has to say about the saturation achieved by the city of Birmingham.

There is no magic bullet in life and if you did not create one, please do not expect one.

Having seen a few schools and what it does to children, having seen how curriculum gets integrated with OLPC, having seen the excitement on the faces of the children and the learning they go through, its hard not to vote for OLPC

I hope those critical of OLPC have an opportunity to work it. And then again, which solution is really perfect? Even MS after 95% penetration takes flak everyday. Even iPhone gets trashed once in a while. What is not and that criticism is very good- as long as it is well meant, honest or not intended to trash anything.

You are misusing the term for Banana Republic!

That being said, I find it laughable that Grannie expects parents to teach teachers how to use the Activities for the XO!

In addition, the XO was meant for students that had no books, unlike the countries given in your list!

GregYohn wrote:

"You are misusing the term for Banana Republic!"

I don't think so. The concept of banana republics has changed a bit with the times, technological advances (it's no longer about bananas, literally!) and changing political climate.

The basic concept remains, though, as clearly expressed in the link you provide, under "Features of a banana republic".


A country that is 88% White and not been invaded by the US is still a Banana Republic? Of course, you have seen the Wiki link to support your views to suggest that it is not civilized?

I also live in Uruguay and although I don't feel like publicly defending Ceibal, this article and many of the comments are so off the mark that I believe I should leave my opinion here.

It is evident to any educated reader that calling Uruguay a "banana republic" is a statement of ignorance about the world and history.

If you start from wrong premises, then you reach wrong conclusions.

Plan Ceibal is not an education plan, it is about giving equal opportunities to everyone. This of course has a lot to do with education, but transcends it. It is certainly not about teaching informatics as the article implies.

Many XOs remain unused, broken or stored away in the closet. Most of the teachers don't use them in class and don't care whether the students use them or not. This is the harsh reality and there is a lot of work to do in order to change those things.

But those XOs that are being used, those teachers that do use them in class, those families and communities that take advantage of the new opportunities... they are making it all worth. Many lives have changed, many bright minds have been rescued from the prospects of a dead-end future. I have seen it first hand, but the effects will be visible in a decade or more.

Content and software development is not as good as needed, but saying that "only a few government agencies or 2 or 3 great enterprises have developed bored and slow software for XO" is wrong. No government agency (besides Ceibal) and no great enterprise have developed software for the XO, only small companies and volunteers. There is too much money in the software industry for big companies to spend resources in Ceibal. And about the bored and slow part, it is an unfair generalization.

That being said, the XO-1 keyboard is crap and Sugar's Journal needs to have more functionality. These things would have been already solved if Ceibal had its priorities right.

There are many things to improve and we need a critical evaluation of the deployment in order to move forward. Here stands my opinion in contrast with Alejandro's article.

From an olpc-booster:"Most of the teachers don't use them in class and don't care whether the students use them or not."

That's very bad news.

At this point in time it needs to be asked what can be done in the coming months and years to remediate the various problems, and whether or not such positive steps will be taken.

It seems that someone has difficulty reading simple English.

When I suggested that parents should be "encouraging better training of these reluctant teachers" I in no way implied that the parents should do the training!

Training of teachers to use technology takes a truly professional person who is sensitive to the natural fears some teachers have of something new that they don't understand. They do not want to fail. They do not want to look foolish or "stupid" in front of their students (who may know more than they do about computers).

Fortunately, Uruguay has many wonderful experienced professionals who have embraced the XO technology with their students. They have had fairs and other meetings where their successes and those of their students are there for all to see and learn from.

The problem is that many do not see or learn. This is where the parents come in. They need to be aware of what can be done and see that their child's teacher has the opportunity to bring this wonderful new way of learning to learn (which is what school should really be about) to their classroom.


So the parents are supposed to learn of the XO's capabilities and make sure someone else teaches the teachers what the parents learned during their free time?

Look's like OLPC had better THINK before it distributes XO's! An untrained teacher needs to be trained or it can not use the unbroken XO laptops still usuable by the students!

"The problem is that many do not see or learn. This is where the parents come in. They need to be aware of what can be done and see that their child's teacher has the opportunity to bring this wonderful new way of learning to learn (which is what school should really be about) to their classroom.

All the students of the world rich or poor are by human rights law entitled to an equal opportunity in pursuit of an education.

get your government to pursue that right on your behalf,


This paper argues the right of every child to have equal access to an education irrespective of his or her colour, creed, nationality, ethnicity or social & financial status so he or she may obtain gainful employment and contribute to the growth of his or her society in the 21st century. Within a knowledge based global society the basic tools of education must include educational & operational softwares.
The interpretation of Intellectual Property Laws today is a morally unjust construal of the law and must be immediately revisited so as to allow the poor children of our global societies their human right to an equal education.
This paper seeks to rally all those who seek equality for all the children of the world, irrespective of their sex, colour, creed, nationality, or financial standing, to join the fight against those who seek only riches, by economically coercing poor & developing nations to enforce their immoral interpretations of the Intellectual Property Laws.
Article 1.
• All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
The Declaration of the Rights of the Child
1. The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.
2. The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and secured.
3. The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.
4. The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.
5. The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.
Surely ‘The United Nations Human Rights’ & ‘The Declaration of the Rights of the Child’ leave no doubt that it is the right of every child to have equal access to education, irrespective of his or her, colour, creed, nationality, ethnicity, age or financial status.
Knowledge now forms a major component of all human activity, economic, social & cultural and has become the major creative force of all developed societies, hence creating new ‘Knowledge Based’ societies & economies. Knowledge is gained from access to education, hence both are essential elements for the development of all children, societies, countries, economies & humanity.
Knowledge societies are not a new occurrence. Fishermen have long shared the knowledge of predicting the weather to their community and this knowledge gets added to the social capital of the community. What is new is that,
• With current technologies, knowledge societies need not be constrained by geographic proximity
• Current technology offers much more possibilities for sharing, archiving and retrieving knowledge
• Knowledge has become the most important capital in the present age, and hence the success of any society lies in harnessing it.
All governments & individuals who truly believe in Human & Child Rights & the equality of all, must surely also believe in providing equal access to all information & tools required for their education, irrespective of a child’s, colour, creed, nationality, religion, ethnicity, age or financial status. Hence the tools & information required for a child’s education should not be withheld for the monetary gain of a few. Humanity can never allow a global society to develop that promotes the haves & have nots of a basic education.
In this high tech, computerised, interconnect world of the 21st century, both filled & reliant on high speed access to information no one country, state, city, community or village can hope to compete on equal footing with others unless their children have equal access to the programs & softwares that all others enjoy as part of their education & vocational training.
All men & women, have but their labour to give, or trade in return for the basic necessities of life, of which education is one. A man or woman from a developing country is not a lesser man or woman than that of one from a developed country. Their labour has always afforded them the basic necessities of life within their own communities because their government ensures the cost of the basic necessities of life are commensurate with the average weekly income of their country. The advent of a ‘Global Economy’ has however strained this basic principle of human existence for the poorer nations & people..
Software Piracy does not occur because the populations of poorer, or developing countries are inherently criminals. It occurs because the young people of these developing countries need to gain an education that their families can no longer afford, because of the exorbitant costs of ‘legal copies’ of these very necessary educational software programs.
2009 Average Salaries for Developed Nations
Luxembourg 49,663 2 United States 49,483 3 Ireland 44,013 4 Switzerland 42,980 5 Netherlands 42,514 6 Australia 42,019 7 United Kingdom 40,825 8 Belgium 40,591 9 Norway 40,177 10 Denmark 39,143 11 Austria 38,682 12 France 35,430 13 Germany 35,292 14 Sweden 33,586 15 Japan 31,773 16 Finland 31,211 17 Italy 29,198 18 Spain 28,871 19 South Korea 27,587 20 Greece 26,929 21 Hungary 21,161 22 Czech Republic 18,922 23 Portugal 18,300 24 Poland
In 2009 the average weekly wage of an American is approximately $950 / week or 49,483 /annum
The cost of Microsoft Office is $499 (December 2009)
This equates to a parent who is earning $23.70 / hour, paying the equivalent of 21 hours of their labour ( approx 3 days) to buy an essential educational tool for their child’s education .
In Vietnam the average weekly wage is $25 / week ,or $1,300 / annum
The cost of Microsoft Office is $499
This equates to a parent who is earning $0.62 / hour paying the equivalent of 804 hours (approx 100 days) of their labour to buy an essential educational tool for their child’s education .
We stated earlier that all workers have but their labour to give or trade for the necessities of life. So with that in mind if we were to reverse the situation for American workers, by developing a proportionate cost for Microsoft Office based upon their hours of labour, we would find that they would need to pay $19,050, (equivalent to 804 hours of labour,). If this was the retail price of Microsoft Office in America we would surely expect to see a Software Piracy Industry emerge in America similar to that of which we presently see in developing countries. Not because American children over night had suddenly become criminals, but because the cost of the tools needed for an education had suddenly exceeded their parent’s ability to buy.
Intellectual Property Laws are meant to protect the rights of an author to his or her developed intellectual works from being copied. They should never be misinterpreted or misused to protect his or her rights to riches, by way of exploitation or disregard of the basic human rights of all.
Equal rights must not be idle worlds of the rich, or already haves. The right of every child to shelter, food, safety & education are fundamental human rights, far outweighing economic or intellectual property rights which would not be considered fundamental Human Rights by any moral, thinking human being.
Within a global, economic society the only way to achieve equal rights & access for all to an education & job, is to put in place a ‘Global Index System’ based upon the average salary of a country.
A simple example of this would be to allot America the base index of ‘1’. Hence ‘1’ would equal the average annual wage of America.
If in 2009 America’s average salary is $49,483.00 then this number will become the base (1) for all other index calculations.
If Australia’s average salary is $42,019 then its index would be 0.84 (42,019 divided by 49,483 = 0.84)
If Vietnam’s average salary is $1,300 then its index would be 0.0262. (1,300 divided by 49,483 = 0.0262)
The Intellectual Property Rights of any Educational or Vocational software would then be valued, within any country, by taking the price the software is retailing for in America and multiplying it by that country’s index. (These indexes would be set by a reputable organisation such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) or United Nations (UN) and would be updated each year.)
Hence for equality of access by the children of Vietnam to Microsoft Office the price should be the price of Microsoft Office ($499) multiplied by Vietnam’s index of ( 0.0262) which means for equality of access the sale price for Microsoft Office should be $13.07.
Countries cannot disadvantage their young citizens to the right of an education by enforcing unjust & unequal global laws, when those laws do not take into account the differences between a developing and developed country. If developing countries enforce present interpretations of Intellectual Property Laws, they are ensuring that their countries will forever remain developing nations by dramatically impeding the young peoples of their countries from ever gaining the necessary education that will allow them to compete equally within the global economy, as computer literacy & skills in the 21st century are just as important as literacy itself.
Until there is a decision reached regards this very important matter, companies & governments should restrain from prosecuting persons in developing countries for using educational & vocational pirated software.
If companies do prosecute during this time of decision making, developing countries must rally behind each other and fight the case in the highest courts of their lands and in front of the Human Rights Tribunal.
If developed governments, global organisations or software companies believe that a moratorium on prosecutions for the use of pirated software is wrong then maybe they need to start implementing an interim scheme which would see Microsoft Office retailing in the United States for $19,000. This would be another way of achieving equality for all the young of the world in the short term.

Get OpenOffice and its FREE, instead of using Microsoft!

I only used Microsoft as an example. There are hundreds of sopftwares needed for educational & vocational training other than microsoft

a new report came out from Ceibal:

So far I have merely skimmed through it, so I am not fully sure that -as usual for Ceibal "research"- actual objective data on XO use is missing, and instead we are offered answers to interviews, but that seems to be it - again, or at least the biggest source.

From interviews we get "social science numbers", whose meaning are well illustrated here:

I don´t know how to translate properly, this well known russian aforism, so I write it in spanish: «Las grandes obras las sueñan los genios locos, las ejecutan los luchadores natos, las disfrutan los felices cuerdos, y las critican los inútiles crónicos.»
Of course there are lot of subjects to improve in PLan Ceibal´s approach in terms of teachers committment and comprehension of what they actually have to do with the XO in their classes.
Of course there are lot of XO broken or missworking and much more infraestructure is needed for the repairing and service.
But it is really nonsense not to see the social impact that the Plan Ceibal has in Uruguay. See the pools where it is shown that in MOntevideo 1/2 of total homes have PC nowadays, and in low segment ( poorest) 1/3 of homes have a notebook (XO from Ceibal mostly)and acccess to Internet has been assesed to be usual for 40 % of total homes in the country. Those seems to me, are developed world figures.
And this is only the beginning.
Every Educational System has terrible intrinsic inertia and sometimes this is healthfull, so we need to wait for measurable direct results.
That is why more than 1600 volunteers ( in a country of only 3 millon people is almost 1 per 2000 inhabbitants) is helping Plan Ceibal to achieve its goals in a non profit effort.
And not only teaching teachers, but parents and relatives in how to use the laptops at their homes. Of course the most common use is to download music or games. It also occurs in developed countries and what is wrong with that?
In Uruguay, third world country, the gap between those who access to the TIC world and those who do not is diminishing day by day, as it is shown in the statistics. And this is good news and should encourage other governments to do the same.