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Livingstone hails Google chairman's "ringing endorsement" of skills review

Ed Vaizey "delighted" by Eric Schmidt's comments on UK education, says Eidos life president

Ian Livingstone has hailed a recent speech by Google chairman Eric Schmidt as a "ringing endorsement" of the Livingstone-Hope video games skills review.

The Eidos life president revealed that culture minister Ed Vaizey was "delighted" that Schmidt's MacTaggart lecture, which was heavily critical of the UK's education system, and echoed the key conclusions of the Government-backed Next Gen report.

Speaking exclusively to GamesIndustry.biz, Livingstone said it was "almost spooky" how closely Schmidt's speech agreed with his skills review, adding: "It's as though he lifted his comments straight from Next Gen.

It's a shame that it takes the chairman of a US multi-national to rattle the Department for Education's cage to get our house in order.

Ian Livingstone, Eidos life president

"He bemoaned the throwing away of our heritage of computing starting with the BBC Micro in the 1980s and the BBC's broadcasting of coding for kids. He criticised the fact that computer science is not taught in schools and that the curriculum focuses on using software with no insight on how it is made.

"What he said was a ringing endorsement of Next Gen and gives us belief and encouragement to continue even more vociferously with our Next Gen Skills campaign."

Schmidt's lecture was delivered in Edinburgh last Friday, August 26, and Livingstone said he spoke to Vaizey "immediately afterwards", stating: "He was delighted that Eric Schmidt's opinions echoed those in Next Gen and will use them as a platform to boost the awareness of Next Gen's recommendations."

In his speech [edited highlights], Schmidt said he was "flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn't even taught as standard in UK schools", warned that the UK was "throwing away [its] great computer heritage", and stressed the "need to bring art and science back together."

Bringing computer science into the national curriculum was the number one recommendation of the Livingstone-Hope report, which also stated: "Young people must be given more opportunity to study art and technology together."

Livingstone believes the stature of Google's chairman would now lend momentum to the campaign to get his report's recommendations implemented.

"I would hope that the lecture would help our cause to gain greater traction inside the DfE [Department for Education] and BIS [UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills]," he said.

"Unfortunately we have had no dialogue with [Education secretary] Michael Gove or his special Advisors at DfE, and of course it is the DfE that decides the curriculum. I'm hoping the DfE will think, 'Well if Eric said it, it must be true' and we get to speak to Mr Gove soon.

"But it is a shame that it takes the chairman of a US multi-national to rattle DfE's cage to get our house in order when they had been told already but didn't seem to be bothered about it."

Explaining the significance of his report's conclusions, Livingstone said: " In a world where computing touches everything we do, we cannot build a digital economy with a nation of digital illiterates. Computer science is to ICT what writing is to reading.

"It's vital that education shifts its emphasis from using technology towards creating technology. It's important not just for the games industry but also for all digital and high tech industries from fighting cyber crime to making jet propulsion engines."

The Government is due to issue an update on the Livingstone-Hope report next month. "I'm delighted that the response will be a joint response from DCMS [Department for Culture, Media and Sport], BIS and DfE," said Livingstone.

A spokesperson for the DCMS said: "We're considering the Livingstone-Hope [report] and we'll issue a formal response shortly. We wouldn't comment on particular aspects of the report ahead of our response."

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Johnny Minkley

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Johnny Minkley is a veteran games writer and broadcaster, former editor of Eurogamer TV, VP of gaming charity SpecialEffect, and hopeless social media addict.

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