Livingstone: UK risks creating "digital illiterates"

Eidos life president explains importance of computer science ahead of government reaction to Livingstone Hope review

Eidos life president Ian Livingstone has warned against the danger of neglecting computer studies in the National Curriculum, ahead of the government's response to the Livingstone Hope review later today.

"The narrowness of how we teach children about computers risks creating a generation of digital illiterates, and starving some of the UK's most successful industries of the talent they need to thrive," Livingstone wrote in a piece published by The Independent.

He points out that industry contributes to the economy to the tune of £2 billion in global sales, but that the education system isn't producing the students needed to keep the industry thriving.

"The National Curriculum requires schools to teach not computer science but ICT - a strange hybrid of desktop-publishing lessons and Microsoft tutorials," he argued.

"Computer science is different. It is a vital, analytical discipline, and a system of logical thinking that is as relevant to the modern world as physics, chemistry or biology."

He also states these skills are "essential knowledge" and the basis for the creation of companies like Google and Zynga, and is also vital to companies like GSK and Rolls-Royce. He added that teachers support the scheme to include computer science in the National Curriculum.

"While I would not expect the Government to go so far as to announce that computer science will be included in the National Curriculum in the near future, I am now hopeful that there has been a realisation that it is essential knowledge for the 21st century."

Today UKIE has launched its Next Gen Skills campaign, which itself is based on the Livingstone Hope review.

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Latest comments (7)

Kevin Danaher Associate Producer, EA Mobile10 years ago
I completely agree with him here. ICT is now basically secretarial studies, maybe 15 years ago it was considered special because it was on the new magical computer box thingies but now everything is on those magical box things. I wish I knew how they worked... Oh wait I'm using one now, I taught myself.

Honestly though, being someone who's very technical but not a programmer, I wish I could have had a better understanding of the lower level of computer science though. A subject no doubt much easier to understand if you gain a basic level of knowledge at an early age, when your synapses are still all squishy (that's how that works right).
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Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 10 years ago
The game industry is moving more and more to middleware. Unity, UDK, etc. In such an environment, hardcore CompSci is not as important.

Steve Jobs pointed out that Microsoft's entire culture was focussed on Computer Science. Same thing with RIM (makers of the Playbook) - a total engineering culture. Apple, on the other hand, was receptive to Humanities and the Liberal Arts - and they owned RIM. A more general focus on education is what we *really* need. Too much specialization, too much "tech culture", makes creative stagnation.
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Andrew Ray Studying Computer Games Design and Programming, Staffordshire University10 years ago
Maybe the industry should get off their high horse and hire some of the 50% of graduates who can't find jobs. If the industry is struggling so much how come so many programmers are struggling to find work or having to start up on their own?

I'm an enthusiastic programmer with a first class degree in design and programming. All I need is a break and a chance to learn as I work. However all jobs require 3 years exp, published titles and mastery of x, y, z languages or technologies. This story is echoed all over the country. I've set up on my own now to make my own work, I'll make it even if the industry discourages new blood.

ICT is needed for many aspects of life and a multitude of jobs, it is far more important to the vast majority of people than comp science.
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Nigel Knox Software Engineer, Slant Six Games10 years ago
I applaud your enthusiasm, but I suspect your problem is that you were miss-sold a course. Part of the problem with being a programmer/designer is that many in the industry will see you as neither foul nor fish. The irony is, is that you stand a better chance of being hired into the industry if you did a more specialized course, that was not immediately obviously games related.
The games industry is becoming more specialized, even someone with a pure software/computer degree would be expected to specialize for a few years (networking/rendering/sound/etc) before being considered useful in games.
To most people in the industry, that makes you a games designer who knows a little about programming. Games design is the "glamorous" end of the industry, with few jobs, and a lot of people who want to get in.
I'm sorry if this comes as bad news to you. I'm sure if you try hard you can still find a way in, but it is a hard climb.

Good luck
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Andrew Ray Studying Computer Games Design and Programming, Staffordshire University10 years ago

I understand your view and the idea that I may have been mis-sold the course, which sadly many are. However I chose the course as it played to my strengths and interests, both art and programming/logic. The 'design' side was actually mostly 3D modelling and Animation with an aim to be a games artist rather than designer. Sadly though I did have to more or less do two full courses at once and was left quite skilled in both aspects, but not expert in a single one. I have been programming even further since university having produced a number of apps and a game and have a decent level of knowledge and skill. Despite this I'm working QA 6am-6pm (inc commute) then programming at home to aim for jobs that don't exist.

Whatever my degree was or my skills are there are simply very few jobs for grad programmers to apply for! The very few junior jobs that come up require very high skill sets and lengthly experience often in specific areas with published titles. The industry can't complain about outside sources when it simply isn't interested in investing in future talent or education. Many graduates now facing a brick wall that expects years of experience and talent before even getting the lowest level job. Theres programmers of 10-15 years industry experience still out of work, many forming new start-ups.

Both experienced and graduate programmers are unemployed and can't find work whilst the people claim to be looking for staff sit crying as they can't see the wood for the trees. Expecting to drop a crucial subject such as ICT to train people for an industry that spurns graduates and staff development is quite wrong in my opinion. Where do people get the required 3+ years experience if all jobs require it?
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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship10 years ago
@Tim - just to offer a couple of counter examples, Facebook and Google are famously engineering-led, and in both cases that culture has arguably been a crucial part of their success.
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Mike Reddy Course Tutor BSc Computer Game Development, University of South Wales10 years ago
@Nick I'm with Tim here, because the consumer design focus provides both a common goal - needed to prevent bloat and feature creep - and constraints on the tech people, wich always helps to spark creativity. It should be noted that Livingston-Hope's call for integrating the Arts and Computer Science, if guided by inter-disciplinary collaboration rather than enforced homogeneity, is a key feature/strength of the NetGenSklls report.
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