Epic themes;Secondary;Books;Geography;Subject of the week

26th March 1999 at 00:00
ENVIRONMENT AND PEOPLE INTEGRATED COURSE SUPPLEMENTS. DEVELOPMENT, DISPARITY AND DEPENDENCE. By Michael Witherick.

NATURAL HAZARDS. By Simon Ross.

NATURAL RESOURCES. By David Elcome.

SKILLS AND TECHNIQUES FOR GEOGRAPHY A-LEVEL. By Garrett Nagle with Michael Witherick.

STUDY ADVICE FOR GEOGRAPHY A-LEVEL. Edited by Norman Law. Stanley Thornes pound;6 each.

Geography is all about places and therefore it is quite amazing to read so many examination answers that manage to avoid referring to anywhere on the Earth's surface," says the examiner quoted in Study Advice for Geography A-Level. Equally amazing is that this sort of observation has been a feature of examiners' reports for at least 30 years. Perhaps it is time we sought explanations other than the inadequacies of candidates. Could the conventional layout and structure of courses - almost exclusively thematic - bear some responsibility?

The EPICS series is designed to support Michael Witherick's popular core A-level text Environment and People. Three of the books amplify key A-level themes, and of these, Development, Disparity and Dependence is especially welcome. Subtitled "A Study of the Asian Pacific Region", it benefits greatly from this clear regional focus, and avoids the hand-wringing moralising that often pervades the treatment of development in geography texts.

The author avoids ambivalence about economic growth - "the powerhouse of development" - and shows that the international links of trade and development are crucial. The regional focus places Japan at the centre of the dependence interdependence debate, and capital flows are given as much weight as trade.

Norman Law's lively handbook draws on the experiences and suggestions of A-level students. Occasionally, it seems excessively user-friendly, as when studying "with one eye on the television" appears to be condoned as an acceptable "OWL" (optimum way of learning). The book goes well beyond the usual study-skills platitudes, and is commendably subject-specific. Remarkably good value for money.

Michael Storm is a geography consultant and chair of the Geographical Association's International Committee

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