Redefining Geography Education

Redefining Geography Education

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Bangalore cops will use GIS technology, Chattisgarh Housing Board will monitor projects with GIS, Delhi Municipality is going in for online mapping, Tamil Nadu will use GIS for utility mapping, and so on. The question is, where are the trained manpower to develop and run these systems? The Indian Planning Commission has presented the report of the ‘National Task Force on Geospatial Education’ to Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Dr MM Pallam Raju. This report does address the question comprehensively but will the government apply the recommendations equally efficiently?

The root of the problem is the moribund state of geography education in schools and colleges. In schools it is a part of Social Studies which includes History and Civics. A reading of the text of any Social Science text book of any Board is depressing to say the least. At present it is no surprise that after the SSC the ‘bright’ students will heave a sigh of relief and sell the Social Science text books to the rag man and get on with their science ‘education’. The less ‘bright’ head for Commerce and the rest head to a Bachelors degree – any subject will do – among them Geography. Meanwhile, the ‘bright’ students go on to a graduation in Computer Science – and some become GIS experts; experts with knowledge of geography very reluctantly acquired and most probably readily forgotten after the SSC examination.

Geography must be rescued from Social Science and given its rightful place in the Science stream. It should also be removed from the Humanities faculty in colleges and made a part of the Science faculty or a faculty of intramural studies. Engineering and MCA courses should also include Geography as elective subjects. The first step will be to revamp the course thoroughly and bring it up to include modern techniques and theories. The teachers have to be equipped and brought up to scratch. There should be practical sessions with field work. Without a basic grounding in Geography no effort can produce the kind on professional who can conceptualize, design, build and run geospatial systems.

Geospatial systems require the redefinition of geographic concepts and their use in the context of information and communications technology. This requires some of the most fundamental themes in traditional spatially oriented fields such as geography, cartography, and geodesy, to be re-examined in the context of developments in cognitive and information science, computer science, statistics, mathematics, anthropology and psychology.

Geography education must realise its role in this milieu and move with the times. It must attract the best brains from both the science and humanities streams.