In the week that teenagers received their GCSE results, Eric Schmidt has lambasted the UK education system, and I find much to agree with him on.
The UK has a proud past of scientists and technological pioneers – the first computer wasn’t built in Silicon Valley, or somewhere in China, but here in Manchester. However, since the early eighties, our education system has failed to live up to our historic record of innovation.
The fact that computer science isn’t available as a subject at every single school is simply outrageous. It wasn’t an option at my high school – I actually had to move schools to be able to pursue my interests.
Students don’t need more classes in how to use Microsoft Word or how to search on Google – they can figure that stuff out for themselves. What’s important is that every student with an interest in technology should be encouraged to study the science, the mathematics, the engineering that lies behind it.
But it’s not all about maths and science – one of the things that we’ve seen very clearly in the past 10 years is that what makes new technology (like the iPad) innovative and exciting, isn’t just the nuts, bolts and software behind it, but the beautiful design and intuitive user interfaces.
“Over the past century the UK has stopped nurturing its polymaths. You need to bring art and science back together.”
At school, I was told that the only way into technology was to do A-level Maths. I didn’t, but today I work as a professional systems administrator. You see the same narrow-mindedness in the Higher Education cuts – only certain “priority subjects”, ie science and engineering, will get funding.
We also have look at the wider picture; the legal and regulatory framework that people grow up in. The moment a young person begins to explore the creative opportunities that technology gives them, they find out that the most basic of mashups, remixes or samples are illegal and could get them ridiculous fines.
Over the past few years, I’ve been involved with several of the Young Rewired State events – bringing young people with an interest in technology together with talented mentors to build applications with government data. I’ve seen complete novices progress into talented young innovators. I think this is what we really need in education – a focus on innovation and entrepreneurship, but in a very practical, hands-on way.
Pirate Party UK
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