Google grant gifts 15,000 Raspberry Pis to UK schools

Google is paying for 15,000 Raspberry Pi devices to be put into UK schools in an effort to create the next generation of computer scientists.

A grant from Google is to fund 15,000 free Raspberry Pi devices for UK schools, to help foster the next generation of computer scientists.

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The Raspberry Pi Foundation hopes donating credit card-sized microcomputers, which normally cost $35, will encourage schoolchildren to take up coding.

The grant was announced at Chesterton Community College in Cambridge on Tuesday, where Google chairman Eric Schmidt and Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton gave students a programming lesson. 

"We hope that our new partnership with Google will be a significant moment in the development of computing education in the UK," Upton said in a statement. "We believe that this can turnaround the year-on-year decline in the numbers and skill sets of students applying to read Computer Science at university."

The number of people studying computer science in the UK dropped by 23 percent at undergraduate level and by 34 percent at graduate level over the last decade, according to Google.

"Britain's innovators and entrepreneurs have changed the world — the telephone, television and computers were all invented here," Schmidt said in a statement on Tuesday. "We have been working to encourage the next generation of computer scientists and we hope this donation... to British school pupils will help drive a new wave of innovation."

Google and Raspberry Pi have teamed up with six UK educational organisations — CoderDojo, Code Club, Computing at Schools, Generating Genius, Teach First and OCR — that will be given a supply of the devices to distribute to children interested in pursing a computing-related course.

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Google's Schmidt has previously said that  ICT teaching in the UK is poor , putting too much emphasis on consuming rather than creating software.

The Raspberry Pi co-founder also believes that children in the UK are being turned off IT due to content of lessons. "Kids learn Office applications in the first couple of lessons and then they're made to sit there doing these rogue exercises," Upton told ZDNet in a recent interview. "They're bored and restless and lose interest." 

"The curriculum has managed to turn computing into a subject that is frequently rated as the most boring subject in school," Upton told ZDNet earlier this month. "How have we managed to turn playing with computers into the most boring subject?" Upton is currently in talks with exam boards about how to improve the ICT syllabus. 

Sales of the Raspberry Pi exceeded all expectations when it went on general release last year, resulting in it  quickly selling out . More than 800,000 units have been sold, with Upton estimating that a quarter of these are in the hands of children.