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Vaizey: Programming is a "vital skill for the 21st century"

"What I like about the Livingstone report is no demands for money"

UK culture minister Ed Vaizey has put his support behind the Livingstone-Hope Review, endorsing today's NESTA event calling for improvements in computer science education.

He told the audience of games industry and education luminaries that "I'm thrilled this report has emerged, it highlights the importance of videogames and special effects to our economy.

"This is actually a report for the whole tech sector, it's about equipping our children with up to date skills... We need to make sure there's the option to do computer programming in schools. It's a vital skill for the 21st century."

"We can use this report to start a revolution, building a partnership between education and industry."

The minister also observed that "what I like about this report is no demands for money," in contrast to continuing calls for games industry tax breaks from TIGA.

"We've got to get away from debate about resources," he later claimed. "Of course there's money out there. We should report again in a year." The success of the review, in fact, should be measured by "what the industry tell us in three or four years' time."

However, there was some consternation about the government Department of Education's engagement with the review. While the UK's secretary of state for education was not in attendance, Vaizey claimed that "I know Michael Gove is interested in this area."

Later in the event a member of Gove's office, minister for Higher Education John Hayes, did eventually appear, and acknowledged in a brief address that "We need to improve advice and guidance."

Echoing Vaizey's sentiments, he claimed that "resources are a big issue. But we are working to assist high growth sectors at the cutting edge via the innovation fund."

More to follow.

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Latest comments (13)

Craig Burkey Software Engineer 5 years ago
Hope that is programming and not database management, wasn't until I did my A Levels did I encounter Pascal but even then most people on my degree course hadn't seen that when I got to uni

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Craig Burkey on 1st February 2011 11:41am

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Yes, the Nesta review & panel mentioned at quite a few points, this does not mean excel spreadsheet methods of programming. But some real game programming.
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John Donnelly Quality Assurance 5 years ago
Even teaching a scripting language like python would be a good start.
Its not C++ but the methods needed to code a script can then be translated to another language.

Even people who dont plan to code can still gain and understanding of what it takes and can be helpful in a multi diciplne team.
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Show all comments (13)
David Leverton Studying Computer Games Programming, University of Derby5 years ago
I would have loved to have been taught some programming while I was still at school, the only way I managed to get any experience without self teaching was extra-curricular activities outside of school time, and that was only a 3 week intro to VB.

Like Livingstone said, ICT was the only option I got, and that was teaching excell and powerpoint skills...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Leverton on 1st February 2011 1:40pm

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Hopefully this will improve public awareness of computer in general.

My parents seem to be under the impression that C++ programming would allow me to create webpages.
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David Bachowski VP Business Development, Babaroga5 years ago
I would have also loved to take a programming course in school. The only programming experience I had going into the university was silly TI-83 programs designed to make my friends laugh...
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Thiago Attianesi Creative Director, Fan Studios5 years ago
This is good for one area of game creation, if all kids need learn C++ and python, this can kill some artists, writers and things like that. Can be a optional study for a group of kids, never a principal class.
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Bob Chambers Studying Computer Games Technology, University of the West of Scotland5 years ago
In school the only coding I had was a bit of VB during Comptuing Studies at Standard Grade level (GCSE for the English), and to be honest the teacher did the hard stuff for us. It was a joke and left me woefully unprepared for further education. Meanwhile there were several classes on the theme of "cooking"; hospitality, home economics and creative cake decoration.

If cakes can become a valid course option, then surely programming classes should be possible.
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Curt Sampson Sofware Developer 5 years ago
Oh sheesh. Does this fellow not understand that the vast majority of people making computer games are not programmers, nor do they need to be?

That said, a bit of computing science training for everyone wouldn't go wrong at all, any more than some real maths training would hurt. But that's not at all the same thing as a "here's how to hack out some stuff in Java" course. Unfortunately, the latter is what we're likely to get, if we get anything at all; the state of computing science education is so dismal that we can't even convince universities to use texts like Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs rather than an only marginally more academic equivalent of "Learn Java in 30 Days."
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Nik Love-Gittins Senior Character Artist, FreeStyleGames5 years ago
I don't think it's a case of teaching C++ etc. in schools ( secondary ), but even some kind of Computer Studies class like I and a lot of my peers did when we were at school would / could spark an interest in programming in some pupils. Not just for them to pursue a programming career path, but also opening them up to the complexities of game development in all areas. I know a lot of people in the industry ( myself included ) got into making little games etc. because of doing a CS class, even if we were just using Basic and creating very crude graphics ( me :) ) on a Spectrum.
If the only exposure to the 'industry' that pupils get is 'how to use google' or something they aren't likely to be interested or if they are will be, as people have mentioned earlier, completely unprepared for a degree course / job.
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Phil Hindle Technical Director, FreeStyleGames5 years ago
I agree with Nik, and Curt's point too.

I would consider basic programming skills in the same category as maths & English & science - fundamental understanding of the world around us, which underpin a student's ability to go on a learn about a huge range of other academic (& vocational) areas. (Artistic courses are important too of course - our industry is a fusion of tech & creativity).

Nowadays, programming can prove to be very useful skill for artists and designers (and most areas of game development tbh), as often scripting can help solve problems, or automate repetitive tasks (think MaxScript/MELScript, or LUA for designers doing some quick & dirty game concepts).

Which other countries teach programming at a secondary school level?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Phil Hindle on 2nd February 2011 12:28pm

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Actually, a bit of programming will allow us creatives to be a nation of one-two man teams branching out from a cottage industry of mobile smartphone & web browser games & educational media.
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gi biz ;,pgc.eu 5 years ago
That's what I probably like most of the UK, they're always on the edge, more often than not with smart initiatives.
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