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Geology experts call for a new Higher in earth science

A group of leading geologists is calling for the introduction of a new Higher qualification in earth science to better equip young people with knowledge in that field and make them effective citizens in the 21st century.

There will soon be no provision in the curriculum for students to learn about the oil industry, climate change and energy challenges, which are vital to the Scottish economy, they claim.

The group includes Dr Ruth Robinson, senior lecturer in earth science at the University of St Andrews; Joyce Gilbert, education officer at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society; and Professor Stuart Monro, scientific director at the Our Dynamic Earth science centre.

Ms Gilbert said that science provision in Scotland had been shown to be narrower than in almost any other Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development country.

Their campaign follows the decision by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to abolish Higher geology from 2015 owing to low uptake. But the scientists say that this was not because of a lack of interest among students, but because no new geology teachers had been trained in Scotland since 1985. "This is not a function of low uptake; it is a function of low access," Professor Monro said.

A survey of more than 130 teachers carried out by the University of St Andrews showed that two-thirds of them feel that their school would consider an earth science Higher for their senior phase.

The government told TESS that the decision had been made to incorporate aspects of earth science and geology within the new qualifications in other subjects, including environmental science, geography and science, rather than develop standalone qualifications.

But the geologists say that an analysis of the curriculum showed the coverage of earth science issues to be insufficient. They also argue that earth science cannot be taught in this "piecemeal way".

A spokesman for the SQA said that the authority fully recognised the importance of earth sciences for Scotland. "We are keen to look at innovative and creative ways of developing qualifications that have a demonstrated need andor level of demand," he said.

"We have previously met with representatives of the geology community with a view to determining actual demand for such an earth science qualification and propose a number of alternative approaches to such provision."

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