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Geography heads west in shake-up

Italy

Geography has become a victim of the first reform of the Italian educational system since the 1920s. It has disappeared as a curriculum subject, sidelined into history and earth sciences, in a pilot project destined to become the curriculum for the new millennium.

When education minister Luigi Berlinguer announced La Grande Riforma a year ago, he left the contents of the curriculum to a think-tank of 38 luminaries including conductor Ricardo Muti and semiotics guru Umberto Eco.

The think-tank duly produced a 500-page document, but because it came out at the end of the school year it went almost unnoticed.

Now, with a pilot curriculum based on the document being tried out in 150 secondary schools, people are taking a closer look. New technologies and languages inevitably occupy a large place in the document. But geography is conspicuous by its absence.

A group of intellectuals has signed a Manifesto in Defence of Geography, in a belated attempt to get it back into schools before the proposed reform becomes law.

One signatory is Oliver Toscani, the photographer behind the controversial Benetton advertising campaign. He said: "Geography was the only subject I was good at at school; without it I wouldn't have started travelling round the world. It arouses curiosity and opens doors to other cultures."

David Newbold

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