Teach three - not one;Letter

8th October 1999 at 01:00
REGARDING YOUR report (October 1) from the SNP conference concerning the desirability of the inclusion of modern studies in the secondary curriculum, I would not deny the report's view that modern studies provides pupils with a very necessary understanding of political events and systems.

I would, however, take issue with the notion if the idea is that modern studies should replace another social subject because all three (geography, history and modern studies) have a key role in the education of our pupils.

Surely it cannot be denied that pupils need to understand their historical background, how Scotland and its people arrived at their contemporary place in time: modern studies itself is better understood (and taught) if pupils are being simultaneously taught about their roots.

Similarly, pupils need to understand their place in the world, locally, nationally and globally, hence the need for the teaching and learning of geography: such locational awareness is necessary for modern studies students to appreciate where relevant events take place as well as the socio-economic differences between countries and continents from which many social and political events evolve.

One of the commonest complaints is that at S2 (and beyond) Scottish pupils have a less than basic knowledge of their geography, even at the simple level of knowing the locations of key Scottish cities and physical features, never mind awareness of UK, European and global locations and phenomena as well as a lack of understanding of their country's history both at home and overseas.

The argument should therefore be for the teaching of all three social subjects, all of which can feed from each other to link the 5-14 curricular areas of "understanding place, time and society". Following earlier correspondence, each of these is so important that they must be taught by teachers who are fully trained (in terms of GTC regulations) in order that pupils gain the maximum knowledge and benefit from each subject.

Alastair Robinson, Head of social studies education Faculty of education University of Strathclyde

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