Small-world denizens

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
Geography helps develop the idea of global citizenship, says Keith Grimwade of the GA

Globalisation, citizenship and sustainable development have never been higher on the political agenda. The emphasis on these in the revised national curriculum is a real opportunity for geography, which has a lead role in developing the concept of global citizenship.

Learning about the connections between places helps pupils understand globalisation. Investigating the similarities as well as the differences between places helps to promote pupils' understanding and tolerance. Studying how our actions affect people in other places develops the concept of global interdependence.

Many links can be made between geography and the PSHEcitizenship guidelines at key stages 1 and 2, and the citizenship programme of study at KS3 and 4. For example, "research, discuss and debate topical issues" at KS2 could apply to an investigation of litter in the school playground or to the building of a tourist complex in a distant locality.

Geography accounts for the greatest number of references to sustainable development, even though it is an important aspect of the science and citizenship Orders and is emphasised in the values, aims and purposes of the national curriculum.

Sustainable development is defined as development "that will improve the quality of life now without damaging the planet for the future". The controversy surrounding the Prince of Wales's contribution to the recent Reith lectures highlights the complexity of the cncept. Geography is in a good position to tackle sustainable development because the subject builds bridges between the natural and human sciences.

For example, young children can learn how to care for the plants in the classroom and the school grounds as part of an environment topic that combines geography and science. Older pupils can investigate local environmental issues such as traffic congestion, national issues such as housing policy and global issues such as atmospheric pollution.

A word of warning, though: we must guard against unwittingly portraying the environment as a catalogue of problems. We must give our pupils plenty of opportunities to reflect on and appreciate the wonders of both natural and built environments.

Support for these aspects of the curriculum is readily available. The QCA's Schemes of Work for geography provide many useful and practical links. Voluntary organisations, such as the Development Education Centres and Oxfam, are producing excellent materials. The Geographical Association is supporting its members with publications for both primary and secondary phases, and articles in its journals.

Geographers should plan for these opportunities now, and not wait until the citizenship programme of study becomes statutory in August 2002.

Keith Grimwade is general adviser for geography for Cambridgeshire LEA and chairs the Geographical Association's education standing committee. The Geographical Association, 160 Solly Street, Sheffield, S1 4BF. Tel: 0114 296 0088

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