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Can geography navigate its uncertain future?

As we head into 2019, many countries are facing a year of instability. Political shake-ups, power shifts and economic upheavals loom – and yet many of today’s students lack an adequate understanding of the world that waits. According to Ofsted reports, geography has been declining in schools for several years. What does this mean for our children growing up in an increasingly disruptive, global world?

 

Geography is the study of place. Bridging the social and natural sciences, it helps us to understand the world – from our environment to the people that shape it. It’s a compulsory part of the UK curriculum through primary school until the end of key stage 3, but with reports of ‘boring lessons’ and ‘uninspiring teaching’ across many schools, it’s fast falling out of favour with students.

 

As a result, fewer are opting to take the subject forward to GCSE, A-level and beyond – and children are leaving school with a confused picture of the world around them. Ofsted inspections found that some students were ‘spatially naïve’, struggling to locate the countries, mountain ranges and other key features they had learnt about.

 

However, the picture is a mixed one, with geography thriving in around a quarter of schools visited. Where the subject is receiving the focus it deserves, students had an excellent understanding of their place in the world. They cared about the environment around them and had a strong grasp of social, political and economic issues. While this is encouraging to see, Ofsted, the Department for Education, The Geography Association and the Royal Geographical Society all agree that more needs to be done to improve the picture nationwide.

 

This will be no mean feat. With the increased emphasis on maths and English at key stage 2, geography is one of a number of subjects that has slowly been squeezed out. But with the next generation facing some of the biggest social, political and environmental challenges in decades, it’s now more important than ever that they’re equipped with the skills and understanding to navigate the years to come.

 

Read this month’s interview with Richard Maurice, Lead Geography Consultant for the Harris Federation, to find out why he thinks geography matters – and how he brings it to life for his students. Or head over to our blog post for ideas on how you can inspire your own young geographer.

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