RETAINING GEOGRAPHY

 

Sir, The White Paper, Charting our Education Future, rightly views the acquisition of "a keen awareness of national and European heritage and identity global awareness and a respect and care for the environment" (p.10) as key aims of the educational formation of young Irish people and more particularly of the role of the junior cycle curriculum in that formation (p.48). Against this background, it is very difficult to understand why geography, the subject which meets these objectives so effectively should have been omitted from the proposed compulsory core junior cycle curriculum for secondary schools in the White Paper, as referred to in recent correspondence.

Study of geography confers knowledge and informed understanding of the earth's natural features and resources of human populations and their cultural, social and economic relations within and between places and of the interactions between the physical and the human elements. Our identity as Irish people is closely associated with the natural and human modified landscapes that we occupy the study of geography creates essential awareness and appreciation of these landscapes. Geographical information relating to other countries is central to creating consciousness of our identity in a European context and in the broader world arena and is fundamental to understanding international relations.

The businessmen and business women of tomorrow who with source international markets for Irish products and services, and their contemporaries who will seek employment outside this country, have a right to expect that they will be provided with the necessary world knowledge to enable them to maximise their social and economic potential. In an environmental context, geography, because of its holistic approach to the study of the ecological, economic and cultural dimensions, creates a heightened sensitivity to the need for sustainable use of the earth's resources.

Geography has a clearly defined and long established role to play in educational formation at second level and geographical knowledge has highly practical implications for individual and societal welfare. The Geographical Society of Ireland, through the forum of its annual general meeting requests the assurance of the Minister for Education that the current status of geography as a single half subject (with history) in the compulsory core secondary school junior cycle curriculum will not be diminished in any way. The membership of the society includes teachers of geography from primary to third level, researchers, planners who received their initial training in geography and members of the general public. Yours, etc., President, Geographical Society of Ireland, Bushypark Lawn, Galway.