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November 10, 2014

Microsoft’s Nadella praises UK IT education

Satya Nadella defends role of technology in classrooms after Jeremy Paxman labels it “corrosive”.

By Joe Curtis

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella praised the UK’s revamp of computer science education at a London event today, as he highlighted the need for more pupils to learn STEM subjects.

Speaking at Redmond’s Future Decoded event, Nadella said computer science classes must be an option for as many school children as possible.

He said: "The most important investment any country can make is in STEM education. It’s fantastic to see the policies in the UK, with computer science introduced to everyone from five to 15 [years old]."

The Government replaced the old ICT curriculum taught in schools this September, introducing a new focus on programming and the basic concepts of computer science designed to develop the skills young people need to meet the requirements of technology companies.

The new programme teaches pupils computer science from key stage one to key stage four, taking them up to GCSE level.

And Nadella added that the increasing digitisation of the workforce, with more people reliant on computers and required to make use of data, has made computer science a vital skill.

"As more human capital is exposed to digital tools, [computer science] becomes more important for everyone," he said. "You need to have that inclusiveness, it can’t be just for elite students.

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"It’s important to make computer science available for everyone and then create opportunities [through that]."

His comments follow an 11% year-on-year increase in the number of students who took Computing at GCSE level this summer, and a 3% rise in the number of students sitting Physics and Chemistry exams.

But the Microsoft boss sought to defend the role of technology after guest speaker, journalist Jeremy Paxman, called tablets "utterly corrosive" for children, claiming it stopped them becoming "immersed in a story".

Bob Geldof also criticised technology at the event. He told the audience: "The future will be what’s happened in the classroom.

"I’ve seen all the whizzbang stuff that comes up. It’s almost distractive. A bored child in the classroom will remain bored. Children put on 3D glasses and think it’s great, but if that’s what you’re brought up with it becomes totally tedious."

Nadella claimed technology such as tablets and the cloud are merely productivity tools to help people become more productive.

"Technology exists for one primary reason," he said. "It’s to help human potential and augment human potential."

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