All students deserve world at their feet

5th September 2008 at 01:00
Geography A-level should do more than just prepare students to study the subject at university, according to a geography professor.

Professor Roger Lee of Queen Mary, University of London, raised the issue at a conference held last week by the Royal Geographical Society with the Institute of British Geographers.

While he said he was concerned about the fit between A-level and undergraduate courses, he was also interested in what A-levels had to offer students who were not intending to study the subject further.

"It seems to be that, whatever universities say about A-level, they have to accept that the job A-levels do is not just about university entrance," he told The TES.

"My concern about A-level syllabuses in geography is that they are intellectually rather limited.

"I think geography is particularly bad in this respect and I don't know why it's happening because, as a discipline, geography should be incredibly exciting at whatever level."

He said his concern with economic geography was that topics were being introduced as case studies without enough focus on the theoretical ideas behind them. So a case study might look at how tourism affects a local population, but would not look at bigger trends in that area's development.

"What I find really distressing is talking about global development without talking about money - who controls the flow of money and how big those flows are in shaping different places," he said.

"Students need much more than a series of case studies. If they aren't going on to university to study geography, or anything else, what this subject should be doing is providing those students with an understanding of the world they live in.

"Physics is never taught through a series of case studies of things to do with physics - you want the basic principle of physics illustrated by case studies.

"This is especially important for those who are not going to university to do geography, or not going to university at all, to enable them to engage with the media or scientific debate."

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