Is UK tech education that bad? Google's chairman thinks so

Summary:Google chairman Eric Schmidt says that education in the UK holds back the country's success in the digital media economy.

Google chairman Eric Schmidt has heavily criticised the primary and secondary education in the United Kingdom, stating that it will "hold the country back" in the digital media market.

In a speech in Edinburgh, Schmidt criticised how children are taught, in particular to areas such as science, engineering and maths -- highlighting the lack of passion children have for the core curriculum.

(Source: Guardian)

Along with his critique of the education system, Schmidt said: "If I may be so impolite, your [the British] track record isn't great."

"Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made", Schmidt said.

He added: "That is just throwing away your great computing heritage".

He went on to describe how both photography and the television were both invented in Victorian England, during the 19th century, but is no longer the "world leading" in any of the modern day fields.

I agree completely with him. Had my schooling years been filled with an inspirational model of teaching, perhaps my computer science career may not have been cut short at university.

So how can the British education system catch up?

There is no doubt that the passion seems to have dropped in certain core curriculum subjects; mathematics in particular.

Maths at school was always a difficult one in my view. My experience of maths was so much of a chore; I probably would have opted to clean my cluttered teenage bedroom on a daily basis instead.

Perhaps it falls down to the individual teaching style of my tutor -- which, to be completely honest, was not so good -- but also a lack of enthusiasm from the younger people as a whole.

IT is also a tricky one. No doubt the British model applies around the world, kids are not taught to develop or how to build something with code. I believe that developing and mathematics would be considered vastly the same thing; dull, tedious and boring.

As modern languages seem to fail in the British educational system, software development also requires the same skills as learning another language.

Nobody wants to learn how to build a PowerPoint presentation, or the skills necessary to mail merge. Who still uses mail merge, anyway?

These skills are innate to the younger generations -- and the IT curriculum has yet to catch up with a generation of already switched-on youngsters.

Ultimately, methods of teaching have to be blamed. Giving children the key skills to inspire each other and crucially themselves to build something from nothing is what is missing from the current education system.

Children need to be taught to be inspired, rather than key skills that they do not want to learn. If they are taught to want something, and given the skills to be able to go away and build that particular something, then they are already ahead of most.

Topics: Hardware, Google, Mobility

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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