Google's Eric Schmidt criticises education in the UK

Dr Eric Schmidt Eric Schmidt said that the internet is transforming the way television works

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Google chairman Eric Schmidt has said education in Britain is holding back the country's chances of success in the digital media economy.

He made his comments at the MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.

Dr Schmidt said the UK needed to reignite children's passion for science, engineering and maths.

And he announced a partnership with the UK's National Film and TV School, to help train young online film-makers.

Dr Schmidt told the audience of broadcasters and producers that Britain had invented many items but were no longer the world's leading exponents in these fields.

He said: "If I may be so impolite, your track record isn't great.

"The UK is home of so many media-related inventions. You invented photography. You invented TV. You invented computers in both concept and practice.

"It's not widely known, but the world's first office computer was built in 1951 by Lyons' chain of tea shops. Yet today, none of the world's leading exponents in these fields are from the UK."

Television transformed

He said he had been flabbergasted to learn that computer science was not taught as standard in UK schools, despite what he called the "fabulous initiative" in the 1980s when the BBC not only broadcast programmes for children about coding, but shipped over a million BBC Micro computers into schools and homes.

"Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made. That is just throwing away your great computing heritage," he said.

He said the UK needed to bring art and science back together, as it had in the "glory days of the Victorian era" when Lewis Carroll wrote one of the classic fairy tales, Alice in Wonderland, and was also a mathematics tutor at Oxford.

Dr Schmidt said the internet was transforming television, even though people still spent much more time with TV than the web.

Money shared

The TV and the internet screens were converging, he said, and a social layer was being added to TV shows through Twitter and chat forums.

He denied claims by Rupert Murdoch and others that Google was a parasite, taking billions of pounds in advertising without investing in content - saying that last year it shared $6bn worldwide with its publishing partners including newspapers and broadcasters.

He also said Google was a friend, not a foe, of television.

"Trust me - if you gave people at Google free rein to produce TV you'd end up with a lot of bad sci-fi," he said.

He also reassured television bosses over copyright violations, saying Google could take down sites from its search system within four hours if there were problems.

Dr Schmidt is the first non-broadcaster to give the landmark lecture, which is dedicated to the memory of actor and producer James MacTaggart.

It has previously been delivered by some of the most prominent names in broadcasting including Jeremy Paxman, Mark Thompson, and Rupert Murdoch and his son James.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    "Have you ever tried teaching? The problem is that teachers WANT to teach, but can't control a class because they aren't taught how."

    I think its also attitude of the children and lack of support from their parents. Teachers are not respected - they have no authority over the children. It is now a case of "listen and learn if you want to" not "you must listen and learn" as it used to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    "Suzkid, if you are on about 2:1, then I understand, but no where i know uses 2(i)."

    So you DID know what I was referring to. Dumb thread.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    As a teacher of ICT in a secondary school I find it unbelievable that people are willing to immediately slate teachers without really having any knowledge of what goes on in schools. The school I work in, and I imagine many other schools also, are successfully teaching computer science A levels, and the basics of computer science in the lower school. Start researching before speaking!

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    80. suzkid
    "suzkid - First of all, what is a 2(i)? I have never seen that before."

    I think that what you meant to say is that you have 2(1) degree. Unfortunately, you used the letter 'i' instead of the figure '1'. Since you obviously cannot distinguish between the number '1' and the letter 'i' then maybe you are not as clever as you like to think you are.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    A lot of valid observations from someone I previously dismissed as a mere profiteer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    @Nemesis65 you are so wrong I don't know where to begin. These small steps and small innovations by leading technology firms is what drives the industry to be able to invent new technology. It has a huge knock on effect on a scale you clearly can't imagine.

    If it weren't for the likes of APPLE, IBM, microsoft.. micro chips. Without chips Veyrons, concords would be a figment of your imagination

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Well the teachers always said that when the yardstick you use to judge schools is the test results, inevitably that's what the schools will concentrate on, in teaching and in selecting which exam board and what syllabus they use.

    Guess what? It's what's happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    @83. Charlie Hellfire
    "Teachers can't teach these days - that's the top and bottom of it."

    That may be a tad harsh. I think it must be very intimidating to be a computing science teacher when so much is changing so rapidly.

    The natural sciences don't change in their fundamental nature or ideas like the digital sciences do. That's got to be tough if you're a 40+ teacher who learned Fortran77.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    My 13 year old son would like to write 'mods' for his favourite game, Minecraft, which uses the Java programming language. Children younger than him from other countries have written great mods for this game.

    Writing simple additional code for basic games is a great way to introduce and develop programming skills. Schmidt is right, Britain is being left behind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    "Agree with the need for computer science to be taught as standard for every child - starting in primary school. "

    I think we can overplay the importance of teaching computing. Most of the best IT people I know did not study comnputing. I did study Computrer Science an Uni and work in IT - my degree has not helped me one bit. I work with peiople who sudies Economics, Chemistry and Physics

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Charlie Hellfire - classic statement. Have you ever tried teaching? The problem is that teachers WANT to teach, but can't control a class because they aren't taught how. If teachers had even basic training in this, it would help immensely.

    Also, how many of you commenting are using Windows? Surely that is backwards as it makes it too easy? I bet I am one of a few using linux.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    He might know what he is talking about when it comes to his company but not our education. Most people my age (19) know how to use a PC, and we know hot to use most if not all the software or we work it out. Our education systrerm is one of the best in the World. e.g between 2004-8 we were the third highest nation in scientific research and pager. He clearly needs to do a bit more research.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    #77. Sorry, but putting a man on the moon, Concorde and the Bugatti Veyron all involved CONSIDERABLE programming and computational skills and research, even though they are not connected with the digital media industry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    A close friend of mine is a I.T teacher in a local secondary school.
    To my astonishment he knows nothing about computer science.

    Thats all thats in his syllabus is Microsoft Word, Excel and powerpoint presentation.

    Nothing regarding the fundamentals of computing, nothing on programming, nothing on design in editing.

    Draconian ministers in a modern society. something has to change

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I did my highers back in 94. The teaching back then had a total lack of real world examples for what you were being taught, esp for maths and sciences.

    Years later when learning financial maths at work I was using tangents to line formulas, statistics etc all from higher maths.

    If more real world examples were given then I feel so called "boring subjects" would be a lot more enjoyable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    47.Muppet_Master "Today in general (secondary) education innovation isn't encouraged, 'personal "

    Isn't that a fact! Kids are educated to pass tests NOT to develop the mind and independent thinking. Gifted children are a problem in the classtroom. My sister was told by a teacher that "he needed another A* pupil like a hole in the head"

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Suzkid, if you are on about 2:1, then I understand, but no where i know uses 2(i).

    I see a lot of people complaining, but no one giving alternatives or new ideas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    Teachers can't teach these days - that's the top and bottom of it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    We had a BBC computer when I was about 8 years old and I did a little coding on it at that age but didn't carry on with it partly because at school the teacher just had us painting and gluing all day, and there was me at home coding away merrily but school was academic it was baby sitting. Secondary school was the same. I took it up again in my thirties as bit of a hobby and make websites.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    66.Liz "We need people like Schmidt and other whingey whiney employers to put their money where their mouth"

    Whilst this is true, by the time employers get involved its too late, You need to inspire and excite children. In my day science and technology was cool - but then again I am a child of the Apollo era.


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