Innovative geographers must mind the gap

18th April 1997 at 01:00
Two weeks ago, Graham Ranger warned of the growing gap between school and university geography and its implications for the subject's future (TES, March 28).

His article advertised the colloquium on the subject - "Bridging the Chasm" - held the following Friday at the Geographical Association's annual conference.

I attended, keen to know which concepts and approaches a concerned teacher should be using. From the outset, two of the speakers (one teacher, one academic) denied there was a gap. Others simply identified the outdated facts and concepts found in school text books. Differing approaches - the absence of behavioural and socio-cultural geography in schools - were not touched upon. Indeed, one of the speakers suggested that a gap is a good thing, as it preserves new approaches and experiences to excite the jaded palates of students entering university courses.

But a deep chasm does exist between school and university geography. Strait-jacketed by the demands of syllabuses and league tables, teachers tend to the conservative; university lecturers, with an eye on research funding and their publication record, emphasise originality and progressiveness.

The examination boards have done what they can to encourage an innovative approach to the subject. The problem may lie as much in the school staff room as in the league tables.

As Ashley Kent said in his GA Presidential address, the innovator is often seen as a pariah. With teachers in schools and universities facing different directions, we must make sure that innovation in school geography is not lost in the gap.

PETER ELLIS 10 Church Road Romsey Hants

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