A LEADING international computing expert has called for the subject to be given the same prominence as physics, chemistry and mathematics in Scotland's schools.

Ian Livingstone, who co-authored an influential report on the future of the UK gaming industry, believes computer science is as important to education now as Latin was to previous generations. He said teaching all pupils in Scotland – and the rest of the UK – how to programme computers, from primary school upwards, would be of huge benefit to the future economy.

In order to achieve this, he said, countries such as Scotland needed to give new skills to teachers as part of their training to ensure classroom learning was successful.

The call follows concerns that too many schools teach information technology in a passive way and do not make students aware of the available career opportunities.

Last August, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt publicly attacked the UK for failing to capitalise on its record of innovation in science and engineering, saying the country was throwing away its "great computer heritage" by failing to teach programming in schools.

Now, experts want to see computer science put at the heart of the curriculum so pupils can learn how to create the digital products of the future.

Mr Livingstone, a keynote speaker at the forthcoming International Culture Summit, in Edinburgh, which runs from August 13-14, said: "Our children are surrounded by computers at school and at home. They run their social lives through mobile devices, immerse themselves in video games and receive their information via the world wide web.

"Yet, against all odds, we have managed to turn so many of them off technology for life through the narrowness of how we teach children about computers, thereby risking creating a generation of digital illiterates, and starving our digital industries of the talent they need to thrive."

Mr Livingstone, who, in his role with games company Eidos, where he is now life president, helped to bring to market some of the most famous computer games, including Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, said computing was no longer a marginal skill for experts and "geeks". "You could argue computer science is the new Latin as it underpins the digital world," he said.

Minister for Learning Alasdair Allan said the new Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) was designed to ensure Scotland's young people had the skills and knowledge required to compete in the global economy of the future. "The rapidly evolving world of technology is an important aspect of this and we recognise the key role of computer science and the need to ensure pupils have opportunities in this field," he said.

Meanwhile, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is to be the headline speaker at an upcoming technology festival being held in Edinburgh. Mr Wozniak, who co-founded Apple Computer in 1976 alongside Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne, will discuss his life at Apple, his views on entrepreneurism, and the future of computing and the web at the Turing Festival which will take place between August 23 and 25 at various venues acrossthe city.

Earlier this year the Scottish Government announced moves to expand the use of mobile devices and tablet computers in Scottish classrooms.

Pupils in some schools are already using iPads and Android technology and Government agency Education Scotland is to consider how digital devices could be used on a wider scale.

Part of the criticism of the use of technology in schools is the fact pupils use computers as a learning tool, but are not taught the science behind the devices and software. As a result, computing science has been included in the technologies area of CfE, as distinct from ICT skills.

Pupils will have opportunities to begin exploring application design, and also basic programming principles in the earlier years of secondary school.