Speaking with the Royal Society in the UK last week, UK Education Secretary Michael Gove addressed the country's declining performance in mathematics and science.
"At school, British 15 year olds' maths skills are now more than two whole academic years behind 15 year olds in China," said Gove. "In the last decade, we have plummeted down the international league tables: from 4th to 16th place in science; and from 8th to 28th in maths. While other countries -- particularly Asiannations -- have raced ahead we have, in the words of the OECD's Director of Education, 'stagnated.'"
Gove noted that the UK would need to reverse its decline by looking carefully at what is taught, and how it is taught -- particularly with regard to technology.
"In addition to the debate over what is taught, and the issue of who does the teaching, we also need to think about how the teaching takes place," he said. "So as well as reviewing our curriculum and strengthening our workforce, we need to look at the way the very technological innovations we are racing to keep up with can help us along the way. We need to change curricula, tests and teaching to keep up with technology, and technology itself is changing curricula, tests and teaching."
Gove gave specific praise to Apple's iTunes U initiative, which gives anyone with a copy of iTunes and Internet access the ability to view and engage with content from prestigious educational institutions. He also drew attention to the work of Marcus Du Sautoy of Oxford University, particularly his Manga High project, which features mathematics games with a high engagement rate from students.
"[These games] are enabling children to engage with complex mathematical problems that would hitherto have been thought too advanced," said Gove. "When children need to solve equations in order to get more ammo to shoot the aliens, it is amazing how quickly they can learn. I am sure that this field of educational games has huge potential for maths and science teaching, and I know that Marcus himself has been thinking about how he might be able to create games to introduce advanced concepts such as non-Euclidean geometry to children at a much earlier stage than normal in schools."
So while Gove isn't exactly advocating the use of Gears of War in the classroom, it seems that he is very interested in the idea of interactive educational entertainment playing a role in children's learning. If video games can help children actively engage with their education and raise their attainment accordingly, that's a victory for both education and the interactive entertainment business.
This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Games Praised by UK Education Secretary