Teaching Geography in Secondary Schools: A Reader

By Maggie Smith | Go to book overview

1

Geography

Changes and challenges

Ashley Kent

The story of Geography's development as a popular subject in English schools is both fascinating and complex. This author's view is that it is both worthwhile and useful to have some historical perspective on contemporary challenges. This chapter attempts a personal overview of the evolution of geography education and this inevitably is influenced by the writer's long-standing involvement with the Institute of Education as both student and member of staff.

A number of publications have discussed the history of geographical education but probably the most succinct and accessible are the four articles by Boardman and McPartland (1993a, 1993b, 1993c, 1993d) in successive issues of Teaching Geography, to mark the centenary of the Geographical Association (GA). Marsden too has written about the history of geography education in various places, for instance 1995, 1996 and 1997. The most recent and substantial work is that of Walford (2000) and unsurprisingly Balchin's history of the Geographical Association (1993) is a story closely intertwined with the subject's evolution.


Curriculum development

During most of this century regional geography has been the dominant paradigm in school curriculums. A key influence was Herbertson, former Director of the School of Geography, Oxford University, whose seminal paper in 1905 divided the world into major natural regions. 'It is probable that his influence on what was taught in British schools was enormous and has since been unsurpassed' (Graves 1975:28). This was not only because he used modified natural regions in his successful series of school textbooks (written with his wife), but because the concept was used in textbooks written by schoolteachers. For instance Brooks, Pickles and Stembridge produced a textbook series covering continent by continent. Indeed the prolific textbook writer Dudley Stamp acknowledged his debt to Herbertson and the natural region concept in 1957. A good illustration of the longevity of the regional framework underpinning syllabuses was the success of Preece and Wood's The Foundations of Geography (1938), which was still in print 50 years later having sold more than 2 million copies.

'The dominance of the regional framework in syllabus design continued during the post-war years', according to Boardman and McPartland (1993b: 65). As recently as 1960 the Ministry of Education lauded the regional framework, which it

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