Google is to donate 15,000 Raspberry Pi computers to schools in the UK, as part of an initiative to stimulate a new generation of computer scientists.
Backed by the search giant, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s aim is that the free devices will encourage children to take up programming.
A lack of skilled young programmers in games industry, not to mention many other professions, has been identified as a significant issue for the UK.
Over the last ten years, the number of people studying computer science in the UK dropped by 23 per cent at undergraduate level and by 34 per cent at graduate level. Today, the Next Gen Skills council warned that the computing education gap is widening.
The Pi, which launched last year, has already proved be a huge success with game developers and hobbyists.
As reported by the BBC, the partnership was announced at Chesterton Community College in Cambridge, where pupils were given a programming lesson by Google’s chairman Eric Schmidt and Raspberry Pi co-founder Eben Upton.
“We hope that our new partnership with Google will be a significant moment in the development of computing education in the UK,” said Upton.
“We believe that this can turn around the year-on-year decline in the numbers and skill sets of students applying to read computer science at university.”
Schmidt added: “Britain’s innovators and entrepreneurs have changed the world – the telephone, television and computers were all invented here. We have been working to encourage the next generation of computer scientists and we hope this donation… to British school pupils will help drive a new wave of innovation.”
Google and Raspberry Pi have enlisted six educational partners, including Code Club, Computing at School, Generating Genius and Coderdojo, to help ensure teachers and students get the most out of the microcomputer. These partners will distribute the devices to schools around the country.
In the recent past, Schmidt has criticised the UK education system for failing to teach children how to use computers.
Commenting on the announcement, games industry luminary and co-chair of the Next Gen Skills campaign Ian Livingstone, said: “Putting Raspberry Pis into the hands of children on this scale is potentially the most positive initiative to spur digital creativity since the advent of the BBC Micro in the 1980s. It will empower children to learn the magic of programming, helping them to both create content and also understand the digital world in which they live. It will help redress the shocking Computer Science deficit in this country.”