Sunday, August 16, 2015

The politics of geography curriculum

Related links to Spatialworlds
GeogSplace (a teaching blog for Year 12 geography)
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website

The politics of curriculum still continue, with geography the "meat in the sandwich".

A previous Spatialworlds posting highlighted the challenge to humanities education in our schools - it seems that the debate is to continue in Australia.

Here are two very different stories about geography and its importance and place in the curriculum.

The negative story from Australia

 There should have been outrage about the proposed changes to the Australian Curriculum: Geography and the sense of pride in the story that we are getting back to the basics and not wasting time on 'fluffy' and useless subjects like geography. Again, humanities education is seen as a 'fringe dweller' of the real curriculum!

"History and geography will be scrapped as separate subjects in the new national primary curriculum and a new Humanities and Social Sciences subject will merge the existing topics of history, geography, civics and citizenship, and economics and business into a single learning area".  The back to basics focus will involve "Schools being mandated to teach phonics style reading as part of the curriculum."                                                                                               The Australian 8 August 2015    

The positive story from the UK

After the rather 'back to basics' and uninformed coverage in the Australian papers last week re: the changes to the Australian Curriculum: Geography, it was somewhat affirming to read the following editorial from The Guardian on Friday 14 August 2015. The Editorial provided data on the growth of geography as a subject in the UK and succinctly advocated for geography as a 'must-have subject' in the curriculum. It would be great to read such a positive article in the Australian media about geography in the curriculum.


The Guardian view on geography: it’s the must-have A-level

 From the Guardian on 14 August 2014

It used to be a Cinderella subject. Now, in a world that increasingly values people who can work across the physical and social sciences, geography’s all the rage

A star is born. Geography, for so long a Cinderella subject, the easy option for students who found physics or chemistry too daunting, is soaring in popularity. According to the Royal Geographical Society, 13% more took the subject at A-level this year than last, up to 37,100 – the biggest jump of any of the major subjects.
Part of the explanation is Michael Gove’s determination to make schools focus on more traditional academic subjects at GCSE and A-level, rather than general studies or critical thinking. That is good for those who can benefit from a narrower academic focus, but not so much for those who struggle. It may be, however, that the bigger reason is that geography is a subject for our times. It is inherently multidisciplinary in a world that increasingly values people who have the skills needed to work across the physical and social sciences. Geographers get to learn data analysis, and to read Robert Macfarlane. They learn geographic information systems. They can turn maps from a two-dimensional representation of a country’s physical contours into a tool that illustrates social attributes or attitudes: not just where people live, but how, what they think and how they vote. They learn about the physics of climate change, or the interaction of weather events and flood risk, or the way people’s behaviour is influenced by the space around them.

All these are not just intrinsically interesting and valuable. They also encourage ways of seeing and thinking that make geographers eminently employable, which is why, according to the latest information from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, only 5.8% of geography graduates were still job-hunting six months after they graduated, against an average of 7.3%. So, year 9, globalisation: good or bad? And for whom?