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Google boss bemoans UK tech education

Google's chairman has said the UK needs to focus on educating young people about technology to get rid of the divide between the sciences and humanities.Eric Schmidt told attendees at the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Friday that the UK must "reignite" children's passion for science, engineering and maths.

Google's chairman has said the UK needs to focus on educating young people about technology to get rid of the divide between the sciences and humanities.

Eric Schmidt told attendees at the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival on Friday that the UK must "reignite" children's passion for science, engineering and maths.

'Over the past century the UK has stopped nurturing its polymaths. There's been a drift to the humanities — engineering and science aren't championed," Schmidt said. "Even worse, both sides seem to denigrate the other... you're either a 'luvvy' or a 'boffin'."

Schmidt said the UK's approach to technology in education — not making IT compulsory as a subject at the GSCE-level and not providing enough support for science students at colleges — meant the country was "throwing away" its computing heritage.

In February Schmidt's concerns were echoed by the head of skills at BT Group, Andy Palmer, who said UK technology education was "creating a generation of IT consumers, but not IT creators... The skills are often outdated soon after people leave university."

Schmidt pointed to the BBC Micro computers of the eighties as an example of when Britain had done technology education right.

"If the UK's creative businesses want to thrive in the digital future, you need people who understand all facets of it integrated from the very beginning," Schmidt said. "Bring engineers into your company at all levels, including the top."

Schemes are underway to bring science to the fore and grow the total pool of UK people with IT skills. In 2010 the Cyber Security Challenge launched to identify computer security experts and one of its prizes was a bursary towards a technical masters course. The scheme's first winner was Dan Summers, a postman from Wakefield.