Develop Conference: 'We now have at least a ten year gap in teaching Computer Science in the UK', says David Braben

David Braben on poor games industry education

Poor education for aspiring developers and programmers in the UK is a perennial problem for the games industry, says David Braben.

Speaking at the Develop in Brighton conference, the Frontier CEO and Raspberry Pi foundation trustee said that often when his studio went out to find new employees, there weren’t many quality and well-trained developers applying.

He highlighted a general trend in University applications for Computer Science, which dipped significantly after a peak in 2001 by 50 per cent by 2005/6.

"We were looking to hire people at Frontier. It’s is a perennial problem in this industry, we weren’t getting good people applying.

"In 2001 there was a real drop off in the number of applicants to Universities for Computer Science, some of them were as high as a factor of four in drop-offs. And that’s against a background of the government trying to get more people into university, so it’s actually worse than that.

"Applicants peaked in 2001, and by 2005/6 there was more than a 50% drop off."

Braben went on to say that with ICT usurping Computer Science in schools, students were now turned off by getting into the programming industry, and said many found the course dull.

He added that with the dropping of Computer Science, the UK now has at least a ten-year skills gap, which could be damaging for the country’s future business prospects.

"ICT teachers tend to be staff who aren’t actually trained in the subject, such as English or history tutors," he said.

"We now have at least a ten-year gap in Computer Science education. From a school’s point of view we haven’t been teaching computer science in the UK for ten years, and that is really damaging.

"Before this gap we had Computer Science in schools teaching algorithms. It engaged the kids, it was great. The kids got excited about it and there was a proper engagement.

"It may have seemed dull at the time, but it’s nothing compared to ICT today."

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