GIS in Indian school curriculum

GIS in Indian school curriculum


Dr. Aparna Pandey
Assistant Professor of Geography,
Department of Education in Social Sciences,
National Council of Educational Research and Training, India

In India, GIS was introduced in school curriculum, as part of geography, at higher secondary stage in the year 2000 under National Curriculum Framework for School Education -2000 (NCFSE 2000). Under National Curriculum Framework 2005, at higher secondary stage, GIS got more coverage. Schools, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, including Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas, Central Schools for Tibetans and CBSE affiliated private schools, follow NCERT Geography syllabus and there are textbooks for teachers which aim to enhance their understanding of remote sensing and GIS. Some states and union territories of India, such as Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar Jharkhand, Goa, Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu &Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Haryana, Assam, Chandigarh and Delhi have adopted geography curriculum at higher secondary stage. But still there are some states like Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, where GIS is yet to find space in geography curriculum at school level. GIS is still in incipient stage at school level despite being included in geography curriculum more than a decade before.

One of the major reasons is lack of GIS trained teachers in schools. Because, still GIS has not been widely introduced in all universities and colleges in India at graduation level. Though in some universities in India GIS has been introduced in the third year of under graduation or still limited to post graduate level. There should be a link between secondary and higher education for continuity in the education system.

Some of the young teachers if they go for one week or two weeks certificate course in spatial technologies from private institutes, they learn to use some particular software without understanding the role of GIS. They don’t be familiar with the pedagogy of teaching geography with the help of GIS

GIS in classroom
It has been established by several researches that the potential roles of GIS in teaching-learning in geography are many and diverse. Critical thinking plays a primary role in using GIS effectively in geography classroom. GIS also helps to develop the ability to analyse, synthesise and evaluate. In that way, students’ logical, mathematical, linguistic, spatial and inter -personal intelligence can be enhanced.

GIS provides methods through which students can explore alternative answers for specific problems and situations. Learners need to define what constitutes a satisfactory answer to their queries. As a result such explorations involve reflective challenge for learners.

GIS in the classroom makes both students and teachers active learners at the same time. Spatial technologies also help students and teachers to become more concerned towards society. Learners, teachers, and society all benefit as each pays closer attention to the needs of the other.

Need of proactive role
In India indifferent attitude of school administrations and negligence towards geography, lack of skilled teachers, ill infrastructure facilities have created a notion in society that geography is a non -utility subject. However, geography is now one of the key elements of ‘high tech’ microcomputers, digitisers, scanners, databases, statistics, graphics, colour printers and plotters. In many ways, rapid development of GIS has been responsible for breathing some new life into the discipline of geography, and has undoubtedly brought it once again to the fore front of both public and commercial attention. (David R. Green, 2001).

In India there is a need to form an organisation of academician from universities, colleges, teacher education departments, school teachers and NGOs, who are genuinely working in the area of geography education. In some countries, such type of organisations is working in this direction and has been successful in bringing changes in geography education in their country.

The professional training of teachers has been recognised crucial for the qualitative improvement of education since the 1960s (Kothari Commission, 1964-66), but very few concrete steps have been taken in the last three decades (NFG- Teacher Education, NCF-2005). NCERT has taken steps towards imparting in-service education to teachers in all subject areas through face to face mode as well as through distance education mode with the help of EDUSAT.

It is an irony that even now in India most of geography teachers do not have working knowledge of computer. GIS being a new subject in universities and colleges in India, as teachers are not exposed to this area as a part of their college education. This technological barrier keeps them away from new developments in the subject. Gradually due to ignorance and reluctance towards modern technology, geography teaching-learning becomes a boring activity of classroom.

Way forward
Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA) which is the recent initiative of Government of India, to achieve the goal of universalisation of secondary education (USE), emphasises the need to include ICT in secondary and higher secondary school education.

Use of GIS in important ways makes it easy for geography teachers to create interesting projects in geography, problem solving situations and effective teaching- learning environment in the school.

What are the things on which we could leverage? A vast number of institutions (almost 700) exist with ET components in one form or another—CIET, SIETs, state ET cells, SCERTs (State Councils of Educational Research and Training), and more than 450 District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs). The Regional Institutes of Education (RIEs) of NCERT also have ET cells. Further, even in higher education where it is recommended that teacher training in ET should form a part of their programme, there are media units. Under the University Grants Commission’s (UGC’s) Consortium of Educational Communication, we have a network of over 17 Educational Media Research Centre (EMRCs) and Audio Visual Research Centres (AVRCs). More than 250 universities offer ET as an optional subject in B.Ed. and M.Ed. courses. Technical Teachers Training Institutes (TTTIs) also have facilities for technical education. Several state open schools, the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS), several state open universities, the national Open University, Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), and the distance education departments of conventional universities all have facilities to provide learning through alternative modes. However, all of them suffer from authoritative and exclusionary traditions. They must learn to collaborate, share, and revitalize themselves in order to meet the educational challenges that the future will bring. The Focus Group proposes that serious thought should be given to making these institutions more effective and to gear them towards the need of providing equitable and high quality education with access to all (NFG on Education Technology -2005, NCERT).

Some of the organisations have started imparting software based GIS education to in-service teachers and students under the aegis of vocational training programmes. We need to understand that GIS is not so much about knowing the technical jargon, but rather learning to use this spatial technology in a meaningful way, that is, meaningful to children. A paradigm shift has to be made regarding the notion of the teacher’s role. She has to move from being a “teacher” to being a facilitator or guide. This means an emphasis on the learning culture rather than on the use of technology. One of the key concepts that should be kept in mind here is flexibility, as the appropriate use of facilities and the achievement of growth would be impossible without it. We need to pay special attention to the continuing education of in-service teachers. (NFG- Teacher Education-2005) In addition an understanding of GIS can be developed by proper study, practice and above all, with a logical aptitude in this area. Without proper and precise GIS education, we will produce GIS skilled labourers, but with proper GIS education we will develop GIS scientists and researchers.

Above all the development of the capacities, skills, knowledge and attitudes of geography teachers towards new spatial technologies, infrastructural facilities and the school environment are pre-requisites for the transaction of GIS in the classroom.

A special demographic feature in India is that the country has the largest population of youths in the world. The important aspect is that this generation is healthier, more urbanized, better educated and skilled than earlier generations of the country. This situation itself poses an unprecedented challenge, and we have to find solution. It is our responsibility to provide them opportunities to achieve ultimate goal in all subject areas and obviously geography is one of them.


  • Bednarz, S. and G. Ludwig.1997. Ten things higher education needs to know about GIS in primary and secondary education Transaction in GIS. 2(2); p.123-133.
  • Birtain, M. Clarke, G. Clarke, M., and Wilson, A., 1996. Intelligent GIS: Location Decision and Strategic Planning . Cambridge, Geoinformation International
  • Cook, W.J.Collins, S., Flynn, M.K. Guttman, M., Cohen, W., and Budiansky, S., 1994. 25 breakthroughs that are changing the way we live and work, U.S. News and world Report, 2 May, p. 46-60
  • David R. Green – GIS in school education in GIS: A Sourcebook for Schools Edited by David R. Green , 2001, Taylor &Francis, London.
  • Education Technology , Position paper , National Focus Group, NCF-2005, NCERT
  • National Curriculum Framework for School Education- 2000, NCERT, New Delhi
  • Pandey, Aparna, Role of GIS in School Geography, Journal of Indian Education, NCERT, November 2011.
  • Teacher Education, Position paper , National Focus Group, NCF-2005, NCERT

Note: Views expressed in the article are personal