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Revitalizing the UK games industry at the source: Education

Revitalizing the UK games industry at the source: Education

March 22, 2012 | By Mike Rose

The topic of computer science education in the UK has been a hot one in recent months. Currently UK schools teach ICT lessons, which essentially boil down to children learning how to use Microsoft Word and Powerpoint.

Fortunately, thanks to the work of people like Ian Livingstone, life president of Eidos, the curriculum is soon set for reform, with a new computer science course due to replace ICT in select schools starting from this September.

"For years we've been boring our children to death," said Livingstone at a Thursday seminar on the future of the UK video game industry attended by Gamasutra. "ICT is not computing... we've wasted generations of people who can't code."

The industry veteran is currently pushing through his September curriculum plans, to make them happen in as many schools as possible. Other notable names in the sector are also working to push computer science in education, including Paul Durrant, director of business development at the University of Abertay Dundee.

Abertay Dundee is currently one of the best universities for computer science in the UK, and Durrant says this is due to the subject being embedded in a variety of other influences at the institute. Schools and universities needs to be prepared to make the change, he warned, as it will take "unprecedented effort" to successfully make it happen.

"Computer Science is the new Latin," stated a number of speakers.

Frontier's David Braben, who is encouraging computer science education via the Rasberry Pi initiative, linked the shortage of women in the video games industry with the lack of proper computer science education at an early level. "It's not that the industry isn't hiring women," he explained. "Women just aren't applying!"

Women see computers as "getting from A to B," he claims, while boys don't question where they are going with computers, but rather admire what can be done.

The Government may be more opposed to bringing talk of computers and coding to schools that it first appears, however, as Blitz Games' Phillip Oliver chimed in from the audience with some enlightening insight.

He had hoped to talk about video games at various schools, but found that he was "banned from schools" as he had not received a standard CRB personnel check.

Even once he was able to talk, he was told that he must be paid to talk, and that if schools attempted to contact him directly about talking, they would be sued for not going through the appropriate channels.

Surprised faces from the panel showed exactly how they all felt about this revelation, with David Braben describing it as "shameful."

However, STEMNET's head of communications Teresa Sutton assured Oliver that this was due to be altered.

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