The Economist letters on how to improve UK CS education

September 29, 2011 at 9:51 am 1 comment

An interesting set of letters exploring the question, “Where is Britain’s Bill Gates?” Below, the current chair of the ACM Education Board (Andrew McGettrick of Strathclyde) and the past chair of the Ed Board (Eric Roberts of Stanford) address that question and “Why doesn’t the UK have many IT-oriented startups?

British universities produce too few graduates with the special software-development skills that drive the high end of the industry. Universities in Britain find it harder than their American counterparts to develop innovative teaching and curriculums because of national benchmarks that are often highly prescriptive. Such benchmarks force universities to rely on written exams to measure achievement, which can undermine the all-important spirit of innovation and creativity. Written exams are rarely the best measure of software expertise.

Speaking last year to students at Stanford, Mark Zuckerberg said that he likes hiring Stanford graduates because “they know how to build things.” If British universities could focus more of their attention on teaching students to write applications at the leading edge of the technological revolution, the budding Bill Gateses of Britain would have an easier time of it.

via Letters: On British technology firms, policing, the euro, taxes, languages, Homer Simpson | The Economist.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Gilbert  |  October 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    I vaguely remember visiting relatives with my family in England nearly a decade ago. Somehow my dad’s job—he’s a mechanical engineer—came up. And it quickly became apparent that you don’t become an engineer in England if you’re really smart; one of our relative’s kids was doing well enough academically that he could do something more prestigious.

    It wasn’t that long ago in this country that engineering was relegated to trade schools. If I had to make a guess, I’d say that the national benchmarks are a red herring here; much more important is the cultural status or stigma attached to programmers/software engineers/computer scientists in the U.K.

    Of course I could be completely off base.


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