OPINION: Games education must move quickly

Given that the new online world is being transformed by creative technology companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google and video games companies, it seems incredible that there is an absence of computer programming in schools. The UK has gone backwards at a time when the requirement for computer science as a core skill is more essential than ever before.

When Sir Clive Sinclair launched the ZX Spectrum in 1982, affordable computers were eagerly purchased for the homes of a creative nation.

At the same time, the BBC Micro was adopted as the computer platform of choice for most schools and became the cornerstone of computing in British education in the 1980s. There was a thirst for creative computing both in the home and in schools creating a further demand at universities for courses in computer science.

This certainly contributed to the rapid growth of the UK computer games industry. But instead of building on the BBC’s Computer Literacy Project in the 1980s, schools turned away from programming in favour of ICT. Whilst useful in teaching various proprietary office software packages, ICT fails to inspire children to study computer programming. It is certainly not much help for a career in games.

In a world where technology affects everything in our daily lives, so few children are taught such an essential STEM skill as programming. Bored by ICT, young people do not see the potential of the digital creative industries.

It is hardly surprising that the games industry keeps complaining about the lack of industry-ready computer programmers and digital artists.

Ironically, today’s children are naturally attracted to the digital world. They are a connected generation. They prefer to access and process information when needed using whatever media devices are available. Calculators and smartphones are not a substitute for learning; they enable it.

It would be a simple matter to inspire them with creative computing. Enable them to build digital bridges for their shared world. Collaborating in teams with different but complementary skills naturally prepares them for their working life.

It would be impossible to make any video games without teams of computer programmers and digital artists working together. And it’s not just about the video games and VFX industries; these skills are transferable and afford people a career in all of the digital creative industries.

Extracted from the Livingstone-Hope Review

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