In a rather harsh evaluation of Britain's education system, Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, urged the United Kingdom "to bring art and science back together, as it had in the glory days of the Victorian era."
Recalling that it was an Oxford mathematics tutor, Lewis Carroll, who had written the classic Alice in Wonderland, Schmidt also referred to the UK's many media-related inventions. "You invented photography, you invented TV, you invented computers in both concept and practice," the Google chief told an audience comprising broadcasters and producers, while delivering the annual MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh International Television festival. "Yet today, none of the world's leading players in these fields are from the UK."
He pointed out that the worlds' first office computer was built in 1951 by a chain of tea shops. "Yet today, none of the world's leading exponents in these fields are from the UK," said Schmidt. "If I may be so impolite, your track record isn't great
The Google chief said he was astounded to learn that computer science was not taught as standard in British schools. "Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made. That is just throwing away your great computing heritage," he added.
Regretting that over the past century the UK had stopped nurturing its polymaths, Schmidt said: "There's been a drift to the humanities - engineering and science aren't championed. Even worse, both sides seem to denigrate the other. To use what I'm told is the vernacular, you're either a 'luvvy' or a 'boffin'."
Schmidt, the co-founder of Google - who stepped down as chief executive of the internet giant in April - was also critical of the inhospitable regulatory climate in the UK. He called on the government to ease the 'micro-regulation,' which had prevented TV companies from innovating as rapidly as technology firms.