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

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

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

    Who listens to that idiot from Google??? What credibility has he got?

    If Bill Gates or people with similar caliber speaks, people will listen.

    Cosidering google's business practices, I don't think anybody with reasonable knowledge will listen to these lunatics
    • An open minded response..

      To an extent I agree, when I was at this level of schooling (6 years ago or so), we only really did things with spreadsheets and the curriculum was terrible. However, I've just graduated from University where the skills highlighted by the guy from Google were included in the course (BSc Computing) and these skills were new to me.

      However, my brother who is half way through an IT A-Level (or it might be a diploma) is being taught how to make mobile apps and programming. A totally different course to the one I took when he was this age.

      There are MANY different IT qualifications and perhaps some are teaching kids to suck eggs but from my experience compared to my brothers, I would say things are getting better.
  • UK Teachers should endorse Mathematica as an educational resource

    The free iPad app, Wolfram, gives access to this math resource. (This app was also listed in a recent ZDNet Blogger top ten app list.)

    For this who just have internet access, please refer to the Wolfram website for more info and access to Mathematica work books and articles.

    BTW, on the Wolfram website, a TED video post by Conrad Wolfram entitled (Stop Teaching Calculating, Start Teaching Math) is available and highly recommended, IMO.

    Just a few thoughts from across the pond.
    • RE: Is UK tech education that bad? Google's chairman thinks so

      @kenosha7777 Thanks for the comment -- always very much appreciated. If you get time, also check out another TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson -- I believe there are two of them. The oldest is the best, in my opinion, but the second is just as equally informative as it is hilarious. :)
      • Thanks, Zack. I'll check out those TED videos

  • YES - its so Microsoft product biased

    and not IT biased
  • Photography history ?

    Apparently, education in the US is not that great either: the photography was not "invented in Victorian England".
    Mr Schmidt, try this:
    or this
  • Mike

    I was teaching math and physics in different universities in the uk, germany, the Netherlands and US. And I may say that uk students are far far worse and have neither basic skills nor knowledge. I am quite surprised that the uk is still in the list of developed countries. Not sure it will last long with the present level of basic education.