Google and Microsoft back programming lessons in UK schools

Google and Microsoft will today throw their weight behind calls to introduce programming and software coding lessons in Britain's schools.

They agree with the results of the Next Gen report, published earlier this year, to which the government is expected to announce its response.

Next Gen argues that the UK should be a global hub for video games and special effects. But the report also stated there needed to be changes in the country's education system for this to happen.

Google and Microsoft are joining a range of companies including Sony, Nintendo, Sega, Electronic Arts, Activision, Talk Talk and the Guardian Media Group, that have already announced their support for the report.

"Coding is the new Latin," Alex Hope, co-author of that Next Gen report, told the BBC.

Hope – whose visual effects company has worked on blockbuster films such as Harry Potter and Inception – said the high tech industry was one of the UK's best growth prospects. He added: "We need to give kids a proper understanding of computers if [pupils are] to compete for all kinds of jobs."

Calls have strengthened to modernise the school IT curriculum as students and employers complained that education was focused on basic IT skills rather than in-depth programming.

Additionally, the number of students studying computing has dwindled. The number applying to study the subject at university fell from 16,500 in 2003 to 10,600 four years later, the BBC noted.

Additionally, the subject has become increasingly dominated by males, with women making up only 13 percent of applicants.

Today, Google's lead UK engineer and Microsoft's UK education head will join Hope in calling for a new IT curriculum.

"The government is looking for opportunities for growth," he said. "Therefore they need to train the programmers that creative and other hi-tech firms need to build their businesses.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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