AGTA 2011 Conference
Dr Rita Gardner "Geography – an education for life"
Monday 10 January 2011
Dr Rita Gardner CBE
Director of the Royal Geographical Society
“Geography prepares young people with the knowledge, skills and understanding to make sense of their world and to face the challenges that will shape our societies and environments at the local, national and global scales.
Geographical consciousness offers young people four things: environmental knowledge, cultural awareness, a precious sense of the interconnectedness of things in the modern world, and a huge variety of skills, intellectual and practical. Good citizens of the future need to have a good awareness of different cultures."
Rita Gardner was appointed Director of the Royal Geographical Society in 1996. Prior to joining the Society, she had an academic career as a geomorphologist in London University, first as Lecturer in Geography at King’s College (1979-1994) and then as Reader and Head of the Environmental Science Unit at Queen Mary & Westfield College (1994-1996).
Rita’s field research centred on understanding natural and human-induced environmental changes in the late Quaternary and present day, largely in South Asia and the Middle East. From 1990 to 1998 she was Director of two major field research programmes in the Middle Hills of Nepal. She has written and edited four books and over 50 academic papers. She was educated at University College London (BSc) and the University of Oxford (D Phil), and is the holder of the Busk Medal for her work in geomorphology. Rita was awarded a CBE for ‘Services to Geography’ in 2003.
Rita has been closely involved in the development of the national curriculum for geography in the UK. This is of great relevance to us in Australia as we develop the Australian Curriculum: Geography. Subsequent to the development of the UK national curriculum, the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), in partnership with the Geographical Association in the UK, has been delivering the Government funded Action Plan for Geography. Within the Action Plan the Society has lead responsibility for two key areas of work relevant to the new Key Stage 3 (KS3) secondary curriculum, namely:
- the development of new online inspiration geographical teaching resources for KS3, supported by a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme
- providing resources and guidance for fieldwork and Local Learning, including the use of GIS – which is also supported by an accompanying CPD programme.
In recent years the RGS has been keen to work with other bodies to help teachers implement and embed the new curriculum to enhance the teaching and learning of geography. The RGS considered that with such a shift in the approach to the curriculum, to a concept- driven rather than a content-driven curriculum, teachers will need substantial support, guidance and resources.
As we develop and implement the Australian Curriculum for geography in Australia over the next three years we are extremely fortunate that our geography friends in the UK have blazed the trail for us. Hopefully we can learn from their successes and concerns. I thank Rita for being so accommodating in travelling to Australia to present this keynote – from freezing London to boiling Adelaide! We look forward to Rita’s take on what we are doing and learning from the journey she has already travelled with national curriculum.