Michael Gove at Bett: "Government regulation cannot keep pace with innovation"

The UK's education secretary, Michael Gove, has helped open the world's largest education technology event, Bett 2014.

Delivering a keynote to a packed house at London's ExCeL Exhibition Centre, Gove praised recent advancements in technology, highlighted British involvement in educational innovation, and rather predictably commended the government's role in pushing through ICT reforms in the classroom.

"When I last spoke at Bett, the ICT curriculum was universally acknowledged as unambitious, demotivating and dull. I decided that we would introduce a new computing curriculum - ambitious, stretching, and exciting. Two years on, with the help of many people here and their colleagues elsewhere, England has has made progress - we set schools free," he said.

Gove pointed to the ongoing 3D printing revolution as one example of how schools were now beginning to embrace the very latest technologies to the benefit of teachers and students.

"Take, for example, the increasing and welcome proliferation of 3D printers. They have developed from an expensive toy to an advanced technology. Our new design and technology curriculum has been redesigned to enable students to master the skills needed to create new products with 3D printers...giving people from all sorts of backgrounds [and] all sorts of schools the opportunity to experiment with the very latest technology."

He also acknowledged the importance of teaching coding skills in British schools from a younger age, noting that the new curriculum set to launch in September would move away from "narrowly focusing on literacy skills like word processing and spreadsheets."

Mr Gove continued: "It will teach them how to code [and] create their own programmes – not just how to work a computer, but how a computer works. From the age of five, children will be learning to code and programme. From 11, children will be taught how to use at least two coding languages. These are precicely the sorts of skills that the jobs of the future and present demand."

The education secretary went on - again, perhaps unsurprisingly - to pay tribute to the role of the private sector and big businesses like Google and Microsoft in investing in new ICT education initiatives.

"You cannot imagine the progress that has been made without the engaged role of the private sector – that's at its most visible in technology," Gove noted.

At the same time, he said that the most disruptive changes taking place in edtech and elsewhere were down to the efforts and risk-taking of startups, SMEs, and entrepreneurs.

"What is remarkable about success in ed tech is how young the companies are. Traditional industries have been totally transformed by the disruptive power of technology...Even as I stand here, someone is pioneering the next incredible and unpredictable innovation that will transform education all over again," Gove opined.

He concluded: "The change is by its nature disruptive, endlessly innovative, and driven from the bottom up. The wrong way for government to react would be for us to dictate from the centre every last detail of how schools and teachers should respond. By definition, government regulation cannot keep pace with technological innovation."