Revival of world development A-level that 'encourages reasoning'

7th August 2009 at 01:00

Hundreds of sixth formers across the UK are using their passion for social issues and the environment to get a valuable qualification.

The WJEC's world development A-level is being taught at six schools and colleges in Wales and about 70 in England. It is the only exam board offering the subject.

Janet Cadogan, head of geography at Olchfa School in Swansea and the WJEC's principal moderator for world development, said the subject had been resurrected from the 1970s.

"I taught it way back in those days," she said. "But then it disappeared for a while and came back as an AS course. I personally got involved because I felt geography needed a human dimension. You teach the student to give their reason and opinions on things. That's very different to other A-level subjects."

The new syllabus aligns closely with education for sustainable development and global citizenship and allows students to study everything from race and globalisation to sustainability and media censorship.

Ms Cadogan said the course has helped students challenge their own stereotypes. "You have youngsters from different backgrounds in RE, economics or politics in front of you and they can all contribute and share their ideas," she said. "It makes them question why they think certain things."

Some schools in England have made the subject compulsory for all sixth formers, but it has yet to be taken up by many schools in Wales.

Mrs Cadogan believes financial constraints may be partly to blame.

"Schools have had very tight budgets in recent years," she said. "Many are having to cut down on curriculum areas rather than looking to introduce new subjects - especially at post-16. I'm very fortunate that my (school) has been supportive and open to new ideas."

She is very keen on the coursework element of the programme, which allows pupils to study a social or environmental issue in depth; one student wrote about the effects of soya bean production on orangutans.

"It's lovely talking to youngsters about these issues. I try not to think of it as teaching because we investigate together," she said. "What is so rewarding is that often when the bell goes at the end of the lesson, we have to push them out the door."

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