The Guardian view on geography: it’s the must-have A-level

14 Aug

The Guardian, 14 August 2015


It used to be a Cinderella subject. Now, in a world that increasingly values people who can work across the physical and social sciences, geography’s all the rage

A star is born. Geography, for so long a Cinderella subject, the easy option for students who found physics or chemistry too daunting, is soaring in popularity. According to the Royal Geographical Society, 13% more took the subject at A-level this year than last, up to 37,100 – the biggest jump of any of the major subjects.

Part of the explanation is Michael Gove’s determination to make schools focus on more traditional academic subjects at GCSE and A-level, rather than general studies or critical thinking. That is good for those who can benefit from a narrower academic focus, but not so much for those who struggle. It may be, however, that the bigger reason is that geography is a subject for our times. It is inherently multidisciplinary in a world that increasingly values people who have the skills needed to work across the physical and social sciences. Geographers get to learn data analysis, and to read Robert Macfarlane. They learn geographic information systems. They can turn maps from a two-dimensional representation of a country’s physical contours into a tool that illustrates social attributes or attitudes: not just where people live, but how, what they think and how they vote. They learn about the physics of climate change, or the interaction of weather events and flood risk, or the way people’s behaviour is influenced by the space around them.

All these are not just intrinsically interesting and valuable. They also encourage ways of seeing and thinking that make geographers eminently employable, which is why, according to the latest information from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit, only 5.8% of geography graduates were still job-hunting six months after they graduated, against an average of 7.3%. So, year 9, globalisation: good or bad? And for whom?

Read more here.

2 Replies to “The Guardian view on geography: it’s the must-have A-level

  1. Thank you for the write up. I surely agree with what you’re saying.
    I have been talking about this subject a lot lately with
    my brother so hopefully this will get him to see my point of view.

    Fingers crossed!

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