Teachers of geography in the Catholic education system in Flanders have expressed misgivings over a proposal to include their subject in a bundle covering a number of science and technical subjects. Teachers fear the removal of geography as a subject in its own right could lead to job losses. The change would cover the first grade of secondary school – the first two years, when children are in general between 12 and 14 years old.
Schools, under the proposal, would be given the choice of keeping things as they are with separate classes for each subject, or opting for the new package, which has a solid STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) component. Teachers fear schools will take the latter option, allowing them to rely on fewer teachers.
That option, according to representatives of geography teachers, is based on the mistaken assumption that geography is no more than a question of learning the names of the oceans and continents, and the capital cities of other countries.
“Geography has its place somewhere between the human and natural sciences,” commented Rita Heyrman of the Association of Geography Teachers. “Physical geography would be at home in the new cluster, but geography is so much more than just that. It’s also a question of thinking about geopolitical problems, town and city planning or sustainability. It has as much in common with economics and history.”
Meanwhile the director-general of the Catholic schools network, Lieven Boeve, defended the proposal. “The call for us to do this came specifically from the schools themselves. We follow this method already in primary schools, where the teaching plan includes questions of land use, as well as scientific and technical aspects. And the options are open to continue with the subject as it is now, or see it taken up in the cluster.”