Teenagers should be encouraged to study the arts at school to make sure the computer games of tomorrow are not designed by “a spotty nerd”, the head of Britain’s bosses has said.
John Cridland, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, wants a drive to persuade schools to adopt the mantra of promoting “STEAM” subjects (science, technology engineering, the arts and maths) instead of just the STEM subjects pushed by ministers.
In an exclusive interview with The Independent, he said: “One of the biggest growth industries in Britain today is the computer games industry.
“We need extra coders - dozens and dozens of them but nobody is going to play a game designed by a spotty nerd. We need people with artistic flair.”
13 August will see more than 2,000 teenagers receiving their A-level results - and exams regulator Ofqual has already let it be known there are increases in the number of candidates who have taken the traditional academic subjects of English, maths and science.
That will be good news for ministers who have been promoting the so-called STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). However, Mr Cridland would welcome the priority subjects being expanded to include the arts as well.
Mr Cridland said he found the trend “really encouraging”, adding: “It is a reverse trend of the previous 20 years when we saw these falling away. Now, for the past three or four years, we have seen encouraging signs.”
He added that he would also like to see students “blending” arts and technical skills - perhaps studying subjects developing both technological and artistic and creative skills at the same time.
However, he expressed concern that the increase in the take-up of academic subjects did not extend to modern foreign languages - where the numbers opting for them have been slashed by half over a decade.
“If we’re going to find another fall away in the numbers, this is bad for business and of real concern,” he added.
“If we’re not capable of speaking other people’s languages, we’re going to be in difficulties. However, there is far too much emphasis placed on teaching French and German. The language we most need going forward is Spanish (the second most frequently spoken language in the world). That and a certain percentage need to learn Mandarin to develop relations with China.”
Mr Cridland was speaking as this year's A-results were expected to show a similar pass rate to 2014 now exams regulator Ofqual has indicated results should be “broadly comparable” with the previous year. More than 250,000 A-level candidates are due to receive their results this morning.
Meanwhile, more than half the class of 2015 - the first to graduate under the £9,000 a year fees regime - say they failed to get value for money from their university courses, according to a new survey.
The survey of more than 650 students leaving university this summer showed that 56 per cent felt their courses did not represent value for money. One in 20 said - if they had their time over again - they would choose not to go to university.
The report, Debt in the first degree, for the National Union of Students is the first to examine the attitude of this year’s graduates towards their courses.
Of the 56 per cent who felt they did not get value for money, 17 per cent believed their degree was worth considerably less than they had paid out for it.
More than half (55 per cent) said they expected not to fully repay the loans they had taken out to cover the fees. At present, students only have to start repaying after they have started earning £21,000 a year - and any outstanding debts are written off after 30 years. A total of 43 per cent thought their standard of living in future would be adversely affected by repaying the cost of their debts.
This is the first survey to test the opinions of graduates on the new fees structure after they have completed their courses. A similar survey of students at university just prior to the introduction of £3,000 a year top-up fees by Labour a decade ago revealed one in three said they would change their mind about going to university if the then current fee of £1,000 a year was raised to £2,000.
“Graduates are rightfully worried about their future,” Sorana Vieru, NUS vice-president for Higher Education, “not only in terms of finding a graduate job but also in how their finances will be affected by larger debts that the majority will be repaying until they are in their 50s.”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills pointed out the annual National Student Survey - published on 12 August - showed an 86 per cent satisfaction rate from a far larger number of students. “It is a priority for this Government to ensure all students continue to get the high quality experience they deserve,” she added.
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