There is a rather long thread in the delphi non-tech newsgroup about ways to promote Delphi in schools. You can read it here (on my old forum front end) or better here in my new one (whcih is AJAX-based). The thread is interesting with a post from John Kaster stating:

We could (and should) offer Delphi for free to schools, and it's something several of us are suggesting as an avenue for DevCo.

and Steve Trefethen echoing:

Since the announced spin out there have been numerous internal conversations about how the approach of getting our tools into schools need to be reexamined.

My Personal Experience

Some of the people who have posted in the thread talk about their own school experience with Delphi or Pascal, so I thought about mentioning mine here. I didn't start programming in Pascal. My first computer was a ZX Spectrum I still own. It came with a pre-built BASIC, but I soon figured out that for extra performance some Z80 assembly was required. Still, I did get a Pascal compiler (don't remember from which vendor) on that machine. At that time I was in high school, but programming was not on the school horizon, and quite new anyway.

At university, my first programming class was heavily based on Pascal the the notions of this language (type system, algorithms plus data, procedural programming, recursive programming, and the like). By the time I had bought a OC, an M24 from Olivetti to be precise, and the programming class required the use of Turbo Pascal of the language/development tool of choice, to be used for learning but also for a larger project to be completed for the final exam. Mine was a find-the-shortest-path-in-a-complex-graph type of project. Lots of pointers and recursion, for sure.

So, Turbo Pascal was my first university language, and version 3 was the first I used. Later, the operating systems class required us to learn C, while the more software development classes introduced me to OOP (with Smalltalk), LISP, Prolog, Eiffel, Ada, the early C++, and many other languages. Of course, Java didn't exist back then as by 1990 I had my degree. I know that later the university I attended has moved towards Java quite a lot, but I regret this is happening.

To me learning the basics of programming with a pure OOP language is misleading. Functions and data are bound to objects, but must be understood as separate entities. The abuse of class functions of some pure languages would confude a newcomer. An idea of stack, heap, memory, pointers and the like is quite helpful, even early in the learning curve. At the same time, getting into the gory details of C can be more confusing than it is worth.

So I still think that Delphi in theory could be a very good choice as a learnign language, as Pascal has always been, but I see that C# and Java are very attractive as they are free and promise more work opportunities. We'll see if DevCo can reverse the negetive trend in terms of school adoptions (and also of work opportunities).