Apple boss Tim Cook has stressed the importance of education being “the great equaliser” in society, as he marked Europe Code Week by meeting teachers from across the UK and Ireland.

The iPad maker’s chief executive has spoken virtually to teachers from England, Scotland and Ireland about how they have used Apple devices and its coding curriculum with pupils in their classrooms.

The tech giant has a catalogue of teaching tools available around digital skills and coding and is using Europe Code Week to encourage teachers to take part in its Inclusive App Design activity with their students, a lesson where they are tasked with turning an idea to boost inclusion and accessibility into an app.

The EU-backed event is designed to encourage more people to get involved with computer coding and boost their digital literacy, and Apple has partnered with the European Commission this year to promote its in-class tools and lesson plans.

“We believe strongly that education is the great equaliser, so to play a role in helping give people an equal opportunity to do well in life (is important), it’s ingrained in the DNA of the company,” he told the PA news agency.

“One of the first goals that Apple had was to put a Mac in every classroom, and we’ve gone way in front of that at this point.

“But even back then, it was so clear to people at Apple that education was so fundamental and so profound in lifting humanity, and it remains with us today.”

After hearing from the teachers about their experiences with Apple tools and their pupils’ response to them, Mr Cook told PA it was “great to see” students picking up problem-solving and critical thinking skills as a result of the lessons.

“Kids are naturally curious about technology, and so there’s this engagement and excitement element of learning to code that makes it probably easier in some ways, and much more exciting, to learn these other (life) skills, and do it without knowing you’re doing it,” he said.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook (Niall Carson/PA)
Apple chief executive Tim Cook (Niall Carson/PA)

The company recently expanded its coding curriculum to include younger primary school children, meaning resources were now available for pupils from reception-age upwards.

“We try hard and we just keep developing new curriculum; like this year we had the Early Learners programmes, we have an inclusive app design programme that really focuses on how you make apps for everyone, whether it’s somebody who’s visually impaired or hearing impaired, or has a motor skill issue,” Mr Cook said.

“So all of these things are important and then we also have the App Design Journal, which is focusing on helping students solve a problem that’s in their school or in their community, to help give them a sense of purpose to the world and we’re going to take it further every year.”

The Apple boss also spoke about the firm’s role in education during the pandemic, revealing that he had been acutely aware of how important its devices had been for students and teachers during lockdown when schools were closed and millions were forced to turn to remote learning and pledged to continue providing gadgets to help.

“We feel the responsibility of that, and we’re trying to make as many products as we can and to get those out to people so they’re really accessible to as many students as possible,” he said.