Google Boss: 'UK Breeding Digital Dunces'

(c) Sky News 2011

The head of internet giant Google (NasdaqGS: GOOG - news) has warned that Britain's education system is damaging the country's chances of success in the digital age.

Executive chairman Eric Schmidt called for drastic changes in education and an end to the split between "luvvies" and "boffins".

At the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, Dr Schmidt argued for a return to a "Victorian" age bringing art and science back together.

He said he was "flabbergasted" that computer science was not taught as standard in UK schools, adding: "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 praised British television as a success story but warned "everything" could still go wrong.

He said: "If I may be so impolite, your track record isn't great. The UK is home of so many media-related inventions. You invented photography.

"You invented TV. You invented computers in both concept and practice. 

"It's not widely known, but the world's first office computer was built in 1951 by Lyon's chain of tea shops. 

"Yet today, none of the world's leading exponents in these fields are from the UK."

The IT boss also warned British business needed support to become world leaders or the UK would be the place "where inventions are born - but not bred for long-term success".

Dr Schmidt is the first non-broadcaster to give the landmark lecture which is dedicated to the memory of actor and producer James MacTaggart.

In the past it has been delivered by some of the biggest names in broadcasting including Jeremy Paxman, Ted Turner and Rupert Murdoch and his son James.

Among the luminaries at this year's festival are Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt, comic Ricky Gervais, Miranda Hart and Brian Cox.

Controllers from the major channels, including Danny Cohen (BBC1), Peter Fincham (ITV1) and Jay Hunt (Channel 4), will be discussing their channel highlights.

The festival runs until Sunday.