Eric Schmidt of Google criticises lack of CS in schools

  • Jeremy Scott

    In case you didn’t catch it a couple of weeks ago, Eric Schmidt, Google’s chairman delivered the MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival. In it, he criticised UK schools’ failure to spark children’s interest in STEM subjects and specifically computer science. He said he was “flabbergasted to learn that computer science isn’t taught as standard in UK schools” – given that the UK played a huge part in the development of the technology.

    I know that the situation in Scotland is much better than in the rest of the UK, but it’s high profile support which some decision makers might take notice of.

    Coverage here:
    Radio 4 piece here:


    Peter W Donaldson

    Hi Jeremy,
    it’s much better in Scotland at the moment but the lack of understanding that Scottish Headteachers display about anything Computing related means that a number of local authorities are making decisions to sideline Computing as a subject area and reduce the time and number of staff in these departments.

    Darren Brown

    Hi Jeremy,

    Computing has been reduced a lot in the Highland for a number of years. With prominence in CfE I was hopeful that would have to change but computing teachers retiring and not being replaced has become the norm. My estimate is only 16 out of 29 schools with Computing and the majority soul teachers.

    One argument is a lack of new teachers coming through in the area but they don’t even advertise the posts. I know in Inverness High School alone for various jobs we have had applicants from all across the UK. The majority of larger schools in my area don’t offer Computing but their pupils are getting into Computer Science degrees with their Higher Maths alone so they tell me Computing is not required.

    The argument that all pupils should experience all the 3rd level outcomes has fallen on deaf ears, most worryingly when we had an all new HMI visit in January I was given no response. The pupils are barely even getting basic ICT in primary to S2.

    Jeremy Scott

    This makes for depressing reading; however, the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Computer Society are both very keen to promote Computing in schools (hence the project I’m working on). There’s a number of influential people on the advisory group for the project and I’ll certainly take this news back to them; hopefully they can continue to inform views amongst those in a position to change things.

    There’s no doubt that the input of people like Eric Schmidt can have a great effect. His recent remarks were followed up last week by an announcement by David Willets to trial a new GCSE Computing [Science] in the English curriculum. See link below:

    In saying this, against a backdrop of ever-tighter budgets, it will need everyone to fight tooth and nail to ensure Computing remains a core part of the Scottish curriculum. And, as you suggest, it must be very frustrating when it falls on deaf ears…

    Chris Aitken

    To add to what Darren has said, there is also (certainly in my school) a problem with the number of computers in a classroom and the number of pupils. As it stands the SNCT do not recognise that computing is a practical subject therefore schools can legally put up to 33 (I think) pupils in a class with the usual 20 computers. I have raised this with my union and even wrote to Mike Russell who both prety much said that things will never change due to the current financial climate. Unfortunately I am the sole teacher of Computing in a Highland school and we are beginning to feel the effects of increased class sizes. This year we have had S1/2 taken away in order to focus solely on certificate classes. There definitely seems to be a lack of understanding on the head teachers’ part regarding the difference between ICT and computing science. It is the view of most Highland head teachers that ICT should be embedded into the curriculum. Whilst I agree with this to a certain extent, it is not being taught at sufficient depth and breadth and by sufficiently skilled people to ensure that these skills are being retained by the pupils.

    With regards to what we *might* be doing, I am trying to shoehorn computing science into a cross curricular project proposal for next year in order to ensure that S1/2 have access to a computing professional during the year.

    Any help you can give us would be much appreciated.

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