The south african school geography classroom

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The south african school geography classroom

  1. 1. The South African school geography classroom: potential nursery for local tertiary GIS educationLorraine M. InnesResearch Fellow, Department of Geography, University of South Africa, Florida, South Africa,lorraine@maptrix.co.zaAbstractSouth Africa has a proud tradition of school Geography going back many years. Within the broadercurriculum, it is especially in the geography classroom that spatial competence is nurtured. A briefhistorical background of map skills teaching is reviewed. Following the introduction of GIS into theGeography curriculum in 2005, an experiment was conducted to investigate the use of GIS forteaching map analysis skills. Low levels of map literacy were highlighted during this investigation.During 2010 a new Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement was developed. The impact of thisdocument on the teaching of spatial skills in geography classrooms is reviewed and it is proposedthat Geography be made a compulsory school subject for tertiary education courses that include GIS.1 IntroductionThe Geo-information industry in South Africa has grown rapidly, as it has in other countries. Perhapsit has grown a little faster than in some neighbouring states in Africa and probably a little slowerthan in Eurasia, the Americas and Australia. A returnee who recently spent nine years in the industryin the UK noted that we are still stuck in the early phase of GIS development in South Africa wherethe majority of users are utilities such as municipalities and water and electricity suppliers. Rossouw(2011) noted that it is location based services that are dominating the industry in the UK andelsewhere and the time is right to broaden the scope of GIS applications locally. When presented hiseducation report at the recent Annual General Meeting of the Geo-information Society of SouthAfrica (GISSA), Roos (2011) outlined the route to professional qualifications in GeographicInformation Science (GISc); the first step on that journey is acquiring map skills. This presentationexamines how school Geography is preparing spatially competent school leavers for a GIS-enabledfuture in South Africa.2 A Short History of School Geography in South AfricaUnfortunately any discourse on South African history (especially the history of education)necessitates a distinction between people designated by pre-1994 apartheid policies according toskin colour. An apology is offered for the unavoidable use of the terms Black, White, Coloured andIndian in the text that follows.It has been relatively easy to trace the progress of Geography in White schools from the colonial erathrough to the formation of the Republic of South Africa by which time it was taught tomatriculation level (commonly known as matric) in all four provinces (Figure 1). However, the„introduction of the subject to other groups was impeded by inadequate funding, a chronic shortageof specialist teachers, a short school life, problems related to the language of instruction, and abelief that a restricted curriculum, offering less range and depth, was more appropriate for theneeds of particular groups (Clark, 1989: 48). Geography was taught in a piecemeal fashion by
  2. 2. mission schools, often grouped with History and Nature Study as Environmental Studies at primarylevel. After 1967 Social Studies incorporating Geography, History and Civics became a compulsorysubject at schools for Black learners in the seventh year, continuing to ninth school year. At the time,very small numbers of pupils of colour completed the twelve years of schooling required formatriculation (Kallaway, 1984). The small proportion that selected Geography at senior secondarylevel followed the same syllabus (with minor changes) prepared for White learners.Figure 1. Map of the four provinces of South Africa from 1910 to 1994 showing provincial capitalsStarting early in the seventies, attempts were underway to bring South African Geography into linewith European and North American developments, calling for ...a major shift in tertiary geographycurricula to include more mathematics and science....as a wave of positivist fervour irrevocablychallenged...research and teaching agendas (Wesso and Parnell, 1992: 193). The real impact of amore scientific approach to Geography was only felt in geography classrooms when a new syllabuswas introduced in 1973. The Committee of Heads of Education (CHE) and the Joint MatriculationBoard (JMB) selected the Cape Senior Syllabus for Geography, which had been revised and updatedin 1964 and 1966 as the new, national core syllabus (van der Merwe, 1982). This radical departurefrom what had previously been offered in the other provinces became the first step towardsconsensus between various interest groups and stakeholders in South African geography education.There was s marked reduction of regional geography and the inclusion of systematic studies ofclimatology, geomorphology, population geography, economic geography andsettlement geography. A second examination paper for practical work was introduced by variousexamining bodies during the 1970‟s to assess map reading, analysis and interpretation (Clark, 1989).This was a significant step in fostering the teaching of spatial skills in South Africa.It was also during the 1970‟s that resentment towards segregated education for people of colourbuilt up, eventually leading to the Soweto Riots, school boycotts and the near collapse of Blackeducation. In response to the education crisis of the 1970s and 1980s the Human Sciences ResearchCouncil (HSRC) appointed a Commission of Inquiry into Education with a brief to providerecommendations for an education system which would meet the manpower needs of South Africaand provide education of equal quality for all population groups (Chisholm, 1984: 389). This didnot, however, mean equal education. A 1983 Government White Paper still defined education as theresponsibility of each of the population groups falling under the tri-cameral constitution for Whites,Coloureds and Indians. These population groups were given responsibility for their own educationbecause this was considered one of their own affairs (Hofmeyer and Buckland, 1992). Theeducation of Black pupils however, was still regarded as a general affair falling under the White-dominated parliament and administered by the Department of Education and Training (DET).While free State education had long been available to Whites, Chisholm (1984) notes from the HSRCreport that, for the first time, free basic education for Black pupils up to approximately twelve yearsof age was recommended. Post-basic education would be state funded for those followingvocational/technical training but Black parents would have to fund their childrens schooling if theychose an academic option. Nevertheless, a provisioning programme followed including the buildingof schools and colleges and improved teacher training (Hofmeyer and Buckland, 1992).
  3. 3. From 1985 Geography became compulsory up to the ninth year of schooling and was then offered asan elective subject for matric. The syllabus objectives were devised to impart geographicalknowledge, develop skills, improve perception of the environment and encourage appraisal ofactions that impact on the environment. The skills to be developed were oracy, literacy, numeracy,graphicacy and fieldwork techniques. It was noted that graphicacy and interpretation skills are bothdeveloped by map work, which should be integrated with every section of the syllabus (TransvaalEducation Department Syllabus, 1983: 10).Table 1. Comparative education statistics 1989 (after Hofmeyer and Buckland, 1992: 22)WhiteEducationIndianEducationColouredEducationBlackEducationPupil-teacher ratio17:120:123:138:1Under-qualified teachers*0%2%45 %52 %Per capita expenditureR 3 082.00R 2 227.01R 1 359.78
  4. 4. R 764.73Matric pass rate96.0 %93.6 %72.7 %40.7 %*Qualified teachers have 12 years of schooling with a 3-year teaching certificateBy 1989 the deprivation of decades of apartheid education could still clearly be seen (Table 1). Thehigh pupil-teacher ratios, high percentage of under-qualified teachers and low per-capitaexpenditure on Black learners clearly accounts for the low matric pass rates. These factors arecompounded for geography learners because of the technical nature of the skills associated withmap use.Internationally, threats to the status of Geography had led to serious reconsideration of its role,especially in education. The Commission on Geographical Education (IGU, 1992) issued theInternational Charter on Geographical Education, which demonstrated how the subject contributesto individual education, international education and environmental/development education with astrong emphasis on knowledge and skills related to place and related spatial issues. Syllabusrevisions in the 1990‟s were guided by this report.Turner (1993) notes that, while 70 % of matric geography candidates were White in 1970, by 1992,70 % were Black. The geography curriculum in use in the early 1990s was considered to beirrelevant for many learners on account of it having been developed in a white- and male-dominated process which had been non-participatory for the majority of role players (Kriel, 1993:14). Despite the fact that education generally was regarded as lacking political legitimacy thepopularity of Geography as a school subject continued to increase amongst Black learners(Conacher, 1993). On the eve of the first democratic elections in South Africa it was imperative toinstil new faith in an education system that would serve the needs of a politically free South Africa.The rapid increase in people of all races attaining matric results that qualified them for universityentrance resulted in a burgeoning demand for places in tertiary education institutions. TheNationalist Government established Vista University in 1981. By building campuses close tosegregated residential areas reserved under apartheid for people of colour (e.g. in Daveyton,Mamelodi, Sebokeng and Soweto) there was an attempt to ensure that those seeking tertiaryeducation would be accommodated within the townships rather than on campuses reserved forother population groups. Vista University‟s Distance Education Campus (VUDEC) attracted asignificant number of practicing teachers who needed to upgrade their qualifications before theycould progress onto the newly devised salary scales. Previously, Black teachers were consideredqualified after ten years of schooling and attaining a two year teaching certificate. This amounted tothree years less training than was acceptable for White teachers.
  5. 5. It was while tutoring teachers registered with VUDEC for correspondence courses in Geography(between 1983 and 1991) that the author first became aware of the inadequate resources availablein schools previously administered by the DET. Many had never seen an example of a topographicmap sheet and certainly had never seen their local topographic map. They were unaware of theexistence of South Africa‟s national mapping organisation (NMO) and still viewed the introductionof the practical paper to assess map skills with fear and resentment. For many years, Geographyteachers on the periphery ignored the injunction to teach map skills. Instead they encouraged theirmatric candidates to guess the answers to the practical exam paper which consisted solely ofquestions with multiple choice answers (one correct option and only two distracters).Figure 2. Map of South Africa showing the post-1994 division into nine ProvincesSouth Africa‟s 1994 elections saw the dissolution of the four provinces, the tri-cameral parliamentand the infamous policies of the DET. The country was divided into nine provinces (Figure 2)reincorporating Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei (formerly known as the TBVC states)and various other areas previously designated as homelands. Although education provision becamethe responsibility of each province, it took some time to dismantle the various examining authoritiesthat had previously existed and put into place new policies dictating that children of all race groupsshould have equal access to equitable education. Starting in 1996 all school leavers, irrespective ofskin colour, wrote the same provincial school leaving matriculation examinations for all subjects (LeGrange and Beets, 2005). The new education policies of the post-apartheid government took fulleffect only once the National Curriculum Statement for Grades 10 to 12 (General) Geography (DoE,2003), implemented in Grade 10 in 2006, culminated in a common national examination for alllearners in Grade 12 as recently as 2008.3 Geography Education after Curriculum 2005It was this National Curriculum Statement (NCS) that first introduced GIS into Geography at schoollevel in 2005. The GIS component was added to the well entrenched Geographical Skills andTechniques section. It was seen by many as a volatile link between paper-based map study (whichhas long been under-instructed in many schools) and the information technology (IT) resources thatare still not available for teaching in the majority of South African high schools.The development of GIS has depended on advanced mathematical and scientific principles but it isnot included in the local curriculum of those subjects at school level. Many GIS applications,especially those in the rapidly growing location based services sector are related to businessmanagement issues but no reference is made to GIS in Consumer Studies or in Economics at school.Perhaps the most obvious place to introduce GIS is in the Computer ApplicationsTechnology or the Information Technology classrooms?But no, it isn‟t found there either. If spatialcompetence is to be improved by the inclusion of GIS in the national curriculum, it will have to bedone in the Geography classroom.The success of a new initiative in education depends on many factors (Fullan, 1995). It is especiallycomplex when the change includes the introduction of information and communication technology(Matengu, 2006). In this discussion of the state of the nursery providing potential GISc students, five
  6. 6. factors are addressed: geography teachers, geography learners, curriculum content, availableresources and methods of instruction.3.1 Geography TeachersIf geography classrooms are the nurseries providing people and skills to the spatial informationeducation and training arena, then geography teachers are the quality controllers. How well are theyequipped for the task? In an opinion survey of 178 senior geography educators at underperformingschools (Innes, 2002) only 56 % were confident of their own map skills and 90 % believed thesecould be improved by MapTrix (Innes, 2000) which is a basic topographic map reading programme.In an attempt at the collaborative writing of topographic map analysis exercises, 70 % of thequestions written by a group of 108 practicing senior geography teachers were rejected becausethey were inappropriate or their answers were incorrect (Innes, 2009). The types of errors made byteachers in the learning and teaching support material (LTSM) collaborative writing attemptsuggested that many teachers were unfamiliar with the correct cartographic terminology, withacceptable levels of mathematical accuracy or with the appropriate sequencing of skills in the mapreading-analysis-interpretation hierarchy.Naish (1982), Lambert (2002), Wiegand (2006b) and others have shown that the teaching methodsrequired for spatial skills development are more specialised than methods used to teach Geographycontent. Castner (2002 a&b) decries the tendency of geography teachers to shy away from engagingin the mathematical analysis of spatial information. Mathematics competence, shown to impactpositively on map analysis skills (Innes, 2003), was seriously compromised by apartheid educationpolicies which limited the scope and depth of subjects offered by the DET. Because of its complexity,the language used by geography teachers is particularly important (Butt, 2002), especially whendealing with spatial concepts, techniques and skills. However, the majority of South African teachersare not teaching in the home language of their learners or their own home language; a matterrequiring serious attention in the attempt to improve spatial competence.The low levels of spatial competence amongst those geography teachers in under-resourced urbanand rural schools (which make up the majority of the almost 6 000 high schools in South Africa) isonly one reason for their resistance to GIS in the curriculum. Another reason is lack of access to thenecessary hardware and software required to teach GIS effectively. In a unique pilot study Carolissenet al. (2006) reported that when 25 schools where given GIS software and the necessary IT resourcesthe teachers participated willingly in the training. On the other hand, Olivier (2005) described theexcitement of learners at an off-site demonstration of GIS and compared this to the disinterest ofteachers, citing the abysmal situation in schools regarding lack of IT facilities.While policies are in place to promote the use of IT in education (Howie et al., 2005) there is still nonational rollout of resources that make the use of GIS in geography education available to alllearners. Opinions differ widely on whether GIS should be in the curriculum at all. Indeed, in someareas, where there is a high percentage of under-resourced schools, Geography as a school subjectat FET level is under threat precisely because of the decision to include GIS in the geographycurriculum. The main reason given was teachers‟ unwillingness to engage with the technology (pers.comm. S. Neuhoff, provincial geography examiner). Negativity was recently summed up as follows:GIS is tearing Geography asunder, this is partly due to the attempted commercialisation of GIS inschools (Mini, 2011).
  7. 7. At the opposite end of the spectrum are the minority of select state and private schools where theparents fund high levels of school staffing and resources. Here, sophisticated technology is seen asan opportunity and not a threat. Software and hardware are made available and used withconfidence to enhance learning. One or perhaps two GIS software packages are purchased; well paidand thus well motivated teachers spend time coming to grips with and using the technology in their„digitally live and enabled‟ classrooms. These well equipped teachers tend to forget their privilegedstatus and urge adoption of GIS in all schools. At a recent demonstration of Google Mapsfunctionality for plotting and capturing fieldtrip data, the presenter said that pupils were justified inconsidering their geography teachers illiterate if they did not use Google in their geography lessons(Lanser, 2011). The disparity between the haves and the have-nots in South Africa could not bestarker than in the utilisation of IT and in particular the implementation of geo-spatial technology ingeography classrooms.When Geography was first introduced as an academic discipline at tertiary level in the Cape Colonyin 1916, the majority of students were teachers in training (Clark, 1989). This is no longer the case,when a lecturer at the University of Cape Town was asked recently how many first year Geographystudents were planning to become teachers he was not aware of any. Another serious challenge isthat the number of practising geography teachers in South Africa is declining rapidly (Fairhurst et al.,2003). The Social Sciences Learning Area which covers History and Geography is, more often thannot, taught by history teachers who are unlikely to have had specific map use training. It is ironic,just when the importance of spatial thinking is being acknowledged and the value of GIS for enablingsuch thinking clearly understood (NRC, 2006), that the teachers who are required to nurture thiscompetence are being attracted away from the teaching profession and joining new geographygraduates in the wide range of positions opening up in municipal and provincial administrations,environmental agencies, utility companies and in the geospatial and related services industries.Despite the attempts to improve the situation at school level, the geo-information industry isstarving rather than nurturing the nursery that provides candidates for GIS education and training.3.2 Geography Learners’ Spatial CompetenceSince the mid-seventies, the candidates who offer Geography as a matric subject have written twoexamination papers. The geography theory paper tests content knowledge, the practical paperassesses their map skills (or spatial competence). Those who aspired to university entrance,attempted the examination on Higher Grade; those aiming for vocational training wrote theStandard Grade examination. The scores for the Higher Grade Geography practical paper for theperiod 2000 to 2007 were used to assess the spatial competence of South African school leaverswho had studied Geography. Data were supplied by the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).Figure 3. Mean provincial scores for the matric geography practical examination paper (in brackets)plus mean scores for the beginning and end of the eight year data period (Innes, 2009, 27)The pooled mean annual scores from 2000 to 2007 for the practical paper for each province havebeen plotted in rank order (highest to lowest) in Figure 3 with the mean scores from 2000 and 2007plotted on either side. From this simplistic representation of the data it is clear that in only oneprovince, Western Cape, were average scores above 50 %. The 2007 mean score is higher than 2000which indicates an improving trend in this province as well as in Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Free State
  8. 8. and North West. KwaZulu-Natal scores have remained almost consistent for the period unlike thescores for Northern Cape, Mpumalanga and Limpopo which show a decline between 2000 and 2007.While the improved scores in some provinces are encouraging, the fact that only one province has amean score over 50 %, one a mean score of 41 %, four have scores between 30 % and 40 % andthree have scores below 30 % indicates poor results overall. These scores indicate a wide disparitybetween what the examiners expect learners to be able to do, using maps and other spatialinformation, and what they are actually capable of doing. The fact that these results are for theHigher Grade candidates confirms that there is a widespread spatial competence problem amongschool leavers in South Africa. The Standard Grade scores were much lower and those withoutmatric Geography would not have been exposed to the study of maps at all (Innes, 2009).3.3 Curriculum Content Related to Spatial CompetenceTo find out what spatial skills should be taught in geography classrooms from 2000 onwards, it wasnecessary to examine two sets of curriculum documents for the General Education and Training(GET) Band, known as Curriculum 2000 and then Curriculum 2005. For the Further Education andTraining (FET) Band for Grades 10 to 12 there was just one set of curriculum documents. Theproposed changes envisaged from 2012, following the latest curriculum review, are outlined in thefinal draft of the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) Geography (DBE, 2011).(a) General Education and Training Band, Senior Phase (Grades 7 to 9)Serious concerns were expressed when comments were invited (Ministry of Education, 1997) on thefirst draft of the National Curriculum Statement for Grades R to 9. Geography was so fragmented inthe Senior Phase (Grades 7 to 9) as to be almost unrecognisable. Some physical geography conceptswere moved into the Natural Science Learning Area and some of the human geography concepts hadbeen bundled with history and citizenship into the Human and Social Science Learning Area. No tracewas left of geographical skills and techniques.Thanks to a few vociferous and deeply concerned geographers, during the next curriculum reviewprocess, Geography and History were disentangled and reformulated as individual topics within thenewly named Social Sciences Learning Area. When the Revised National Curriculum Statement (orRNCS) for Grades R to 9 was released for implementation from 2005 onwards, geographical skillsand techniques were again specified and map study was, for the first time, prescribed forexamination at GET level (DoE, 2002b). Topographic maps are specifically mentioned as one of thetypes of maps to be used and strong emphasis is placed on investigating local issues using fieldwork.After a five year period of no exposure to map skills, a policy was back in place to improve the spatialcompetence of learners even before they entered the FET band.(b) Further Education and Training Band (Grades 10 to 12)A search through the Learning Outcomes and Assessment Standards in the NCS for GeographyGrades 10 to 12 (DoE, 2003) for the last three years of secondary school revealed little that could beused to identify a clear hierarchy of spatial competence outcomes. Although the term „sources‟ wasused repeatedly, only two specific references to maps are made with no reference to other spatialinformation products. While teachers with adequate training and experience would no doubt have
  9. 9. such sources, for new or inadequately trained teachers with little experience or exposure to maps, itwas unlikely that they would have relevant sources or know how to access them.The two official documents, long awaited by teachers for assistance with implementation of the NCS,the Learning Programme Guidelines (LPG) (DoE, 2008a) and Subject Assessment Guidelines (SAG)(DoE, 2008b) contradicted each other on the topic of spatial competence. They provided scantassistance in the development of a graduated programme of map analysis skills acquisition (Innes,2005). While there was ample evidence that map use had been given a central place withinGeography, and that maps were to be used to investigate real issues in local contexts that hadimpact on learners‟ lives, guidance on what map use techniques should be introduced when, and atwhat skill level, was not given. There was no clear definition of spatial competence nor was there ahierarchy for introducing map skills in a way that would help learners move from simple to morecomplicated tasks, gaining confidence as they progressed, as recommended by Alexander andBlanchard (1985).Nevertheless, introduction of GIS into the Geography curriculum was a brave step forward. Therewas a far greater degree of progression of GIS concepts, compared with map use concepts, in theSAGs Content Framework for Geography (DoE, 2008b: 21 and 22). Unfortunately, when it came tothe examples of Work Schedules across the three Grades in the LPG (DoE, 2008a: 35 - 45), only someof the GIS concepts had been itemised in Grades 10 and 11 while none of the Grade 12 GIS contentappeared in the Grade 12 Work Schedule.(c) Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) - the Latest ReviewDissatisfaction was expressed at the onerous burden of assessment linked to Outcomes BasedEducation (OBE) and the confusion caused by the plethora of contradicting documentation. This ledto a further review process of both the RNCS for Grades R to 9 and the NCS for Grades 10 to 12. Thedrafting of a Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) was initiated in 2009. This willeventually replace the RNCS, NCS, LPG, SAG and related documents. Public participation in compilingthis document was invited. A first draft was circulated and again comments were invited. A finaldraft of the CAPS document was provided to the Publishers Association of South Africa in January2011 to facilitate preparation of textbooks (DBE, 2011). Unfortunately, by mid-April, it had still notbeen officially released.Positive developments at GET level include the clearer map skills hierarchy developed sequentiallyright from the Intermediate Phase (Grades 4 to 6) into the Senior Phase (Grades 7 to 9). Guidelinesfor topographic and orthophoto map study are clearly spelled out. Once the CAPS is implemented,the teachers are trained and the resources are provided, all learners reaching the end of the GETPhase should be well equipped to use maps with confidence.At FET level, positive developments include the integration of map skills with content and a lessonerous introduction to GIS concepts in Grade 10. The previously implied reliance on using IT toteach GIS has been clarified by reference to the use of tracing paper to capture data in Grade 11 andto build a „paper‟ GIS with layers of information in Grade 12 (DBE, 2011: 24 & 34).Once learners have received the improved spatial competence education provided for in the CAPSfor GET level, they will progress to FET level with an established skills base from which to develop
  10. 10. advanced spatial skills. But, the timing of policy implementation is unfortunate. It is proposed thatthe CAPS will be implemented for Grade 10 learners in 2012 but they will not have received thespatial skills foundation provided for in the improved curriculum for Grade 9. An implementationdate for Grades 7 to 9 has still to be confirmed. This means that there will be a considerable time lagbefore those leaving the spatial competence nursery will be fully supported by effective curriculumimplementation.3.4 Resources Required: From Maps on Paper to Maps on ScreenIt is impossible to teach someone to read a map if there are no maps to read. The majority ofschools responding to the survey mentioned in 3.1 were under-resourced, 78 % of the 178respondents indicated that they lacked adequate resources for teaching map use (Innes, 2002). Onesolution to the problem of poor spatial competence lies in providing adequate resources to counterthe lack of facilities reported by teachers. Based on the poor results illustrated in Figure 3, theprovision of a few map extracts in Geography textbooks, the availability of examination mapsprovided with examination papers and even specialised map skills textbooks is insufficient. In anattempt to provide access to local maps, the MapPack Project of the Chief Directorate: NationalGeo-spatial Information (CD: NGI) provides free maps of their local area to schools and offerstraining to teachers in using maps to teach Geography (Innes and Engel, 2001 a&b).The questionable ability of a large percentage of South African geography teachers to meet spatiallearning needs (discussed in 3.1) emphasises the value of providing self-instruction learning andteaching materials to meet both teacher‟ training needs as well as the needs of their learners. Oncesuch learning materials for Geography are available in digital format, then pressure can be appliedby teachers of Geography to ensure that their subject also receives the benefits of the ICT facilitiesthat are progressively being provided to more and more schools (Bialobrzeska and Cohen, 2005;Khanya, 2005; Matandela, 2008).In cases where some IT facilities are in place in schools, the main emphasis is currently onmathematics instruction with science and language support also receiving attention. However,Lundall and Howell (2000) cited the following as factors preventing widespread computer use inSouth African education: insufficient funds, too few computers, lack of computer literacy amongteachers, lack of computer-trained subject teachers and the absence of a computer skills curriculum.Lack of awareness of the requirements for using GIS in Geography is suggested by the paucity ofinformation on GIS in their guide to managing ICT for South African school principals (Bialobrzeskaand Cohen, 2005). The situation is not unique to African countries. It is reported that low levels ofadoption of GIS in American schools can be attributed to limited access to hardware and software inschools, intimidating software, insufficient time available for learning to use the software and lowlevels of technology training for teachers (NRC, 2006).The factors that promote and impede the use of information communication technology (ICT) inschools have been investigated in Namibia. The findings of Matengu (2006) may have relevance forthe likelihood of adoption of GIS in South African schools. He found that apart from changingpolitical agendas related to development, a perceived need for technology by education officials wasan important promotional factor. To counter this, the impeding factors included: inequalities
  11. 11. between core and peripheral areas, lack of infrastructure, inadequately devised adoption strategiesand lack of vision and guidance from policy makers.Implementation of the NCS for Geography at FET level introduced GIS to learners in Grade 10 in2006, Grade 11 in 2007 and Grade 12 in 2008. Carolissen et al., (2006) reported on teachersperceptions of GIS and the challenges they face in the local province (Western Cape). Prior toimplementation, a programme of curriculum advisor training was undertaken. In the pilot projectinvolving 25 high schools mentioned in 3.1, two different service providers (GIMS and Naperian GISTechnologies) both installed GIS software packages (ArcView® 3.3 and Geomaticarespectively). After initial training by the service providers, the teachers at the 25 pilot schools weregiven three to four months to evaluate both software packages and recommend one of them forimplementation throughout the province. Teachers perceived that the training was concentrated onmapping applications and not on the theory and principles underlying GIS as prescribed in thecurriculum. Despite the fact that teachers felt that their choice of software was ill-informed becausethey were still getting to know about GIS, the tender for installing ArcView® 3.3 in all high schools,offering Geography to Grade 12, in the Western Cape was awarded to GIMS (Rust and Kindler,2008). No report on the evaluation process followed by the teachers or curriculum advisors hascome to hand but the fact that ArcView® 3.3 had already been installed in two other provinces,Gauteng and Eastern Cape, may have influenced the decision (ostensibly in the interests ofimplementing a standardised curriculum).Although reports on the implementation of GIS in the other provinces have not come to hand,investigations into computers in schools have. According to the findings of Lundall and Howell(2000), only about 10 % of the almost 28 000 schools in South Africa (both primary and high schools)had computers at the start of the millennium. Over time, the situation has improved to about 13 %with the majority of computer using schools in the Western Cape and Gauteng ... and it is no co-incidence that they are also the two wealthiest provinces ... (Howie et al., 2005: 109). GISSAmembers have been pro-active in supporting GIS education in different provinces in South Africa(Roos, 2011). The Western Cape Branch has been particularly active by promoting and supportingGIS Week which has grown from strength to strength over the last 8 years.3.5 Teaching Methods for Enhancing Spatial CompetenceWith education policies supporting spatial competence and GIS in place but fewer and fewer trainedteachers available to teach them, alternative teaching methodologies must be investigated. As analternative to traditional classroom practice, self-instruction has been evaluated as a method forimproving spatial competence; initially for map reading (Innes, 1998) and then for map analysis(Innes, 2009). A postal opinion survey confirmed that a self-instruction programme for map reading(MapTrix, Innes, 2001) was effective. Using the test-intervention-test method, the importance ofmathematics instruction for improving map analysis was recognised. Use of an opinion survey,conducted in an interactive workshop environment with a GIS-user focus group, guided theidentification of foundation tasks associated with spatial analysis and an appropriate hierarchy forintroducing the cumulative learning required to undertake those tasks. An appropriate instructiondesign model was identified and, focussing on the 1:50 000 topographic map of South Africa,learning materials were developed to address spatial learning needs using a GIS platform andPowerPoint to deliver the programme.
  12. 12. Map reading is a pre-requisite skill for map analysis. To ensure their proficiency as map readers andto prepare participants to trial the prototype computer-assisted map analysis programmeprovisionally named MapTrixGeomatica, they were first introduced to the computer-instructionenvironment using the MapTrix Digital Game (a prototype of the digital conversion of MapTrix). Thetest-intervention-test method confirmed the effectiveness of the map reading game and themethod was used again for the evaluation of MapTrixGeomatica. The trials were conducted withfour different groups of participants in both holiday-volunteer and school-based environments.Results indicate that the programme succeeded in improving map analysis scores, that self-instruction is effective with management and guidance by a trained teacher and that GIS provides aneffective delivery mechanism for a spatial analysis learning programme (Innes, 2009). Before broadgeneralisations can be based on these findings, independent trials should be conducted and the self-instruction method should be evaluated against conventional classroom teaching methods.Once learners can read a topographic map with understanding and analyse the spatial informationpresented on the map with confidence, they can be guided towards map interpretation. Thisadvanced level of capability requires ...high-end or critical and creative thinking (that) extendsbeyond a natural processing of the world into the realm of deliberative thinking acts aimed atsolving problems, making decisions and forming conclusions (Ritchhart and Perkins, 2005: 776).Because GIS offers the opportunity to present more than one kind of data for the same location andmakes it possible to link it to multiple layers of background data, the technology can be used tofacilitate this higher order thinking.In contrast to the approach above which uses GIS to teach map skills, an alternative approach is toteach GIS for its own sake. There is a clear division between these approaches and the line is notdrawn strictly between the technologically advanced first world and less advanced third world.Green (2001) suggests that, as software and hardware become increasingly user-friendly with bettermanuals and the fact that children readily adapt to a computer environment, GIS can be grasped byany geography teacher. While this may be true in a well resourced school setting, for those teacherswho are less computer literate or for whom there is no access to computers, GIS is not an easyoption. Even in a developed world setting, Kerski (2003) reported that fewer than 8 % of Americanhigh schools had purchased GIS software, only half the educators at those schools were using it and,of those, only 20 % used GIS in more than one lesson with more than one class.Forster et al. (2007) reported that an ambitious GIS in Education project was to be launched inRwanda in 2008. In a collaborative effort between the Centre for GIS and Remote Sensing of theNational University of Rwanda (CGIS-NUR), Kigali Institute of Education, Rwandan Ministry ofEducation and using licenses donated by Jack Dangermond of ESRI, trained teachers at ten pilotsenior secondary schools started using GIS in their teaching and also trained teachers from threeselected surrounding schools. The roll-out programme will repeat the snowball effect with eachnewly trained teacher training three more each year. This forms part of Rwandas 2020 vision tobecome the Singapore of Africa by promoting rapid advancement of ICT (Majtenyi, 2008). Thedissemination is based on Telecentres which function as internet access points as well as trainingand support centres for local community development projects. The initial progress of this project,including the first ESRI Summer Camp in Africa has been reported (CGIS-NUR, 2009) and furtherdevelopments will be watched with great interest.
  13. 13. In cases where successful implementation of GIS in education has been achieved, local spatial datahas been imported and learners were encouraged to undertake GIS enabled investigations with localrelevance in their home areas (Page et al., 2001; Fitzpatrick and Maguire, 2001; Maguire,2006; Wiegand, 2006a and b). A local example is Ashwell‟s (2007) report on a successful GIS projectsupporting biome studies in Biology that involved youth groups in gathering and plotting bird data atan urban nature reserve in Cape Town.After examining the reasons why the potential of geospatial technologies (GST) including GIS, forenhancing spatial learning were not being met in many countries, Bednarz and Bednarz (2008)developed and instituted the Advancing Geospatial Skills in Science and Social Science (AGSSS)programme. They identified the most significant barriers to diffusion of GST as first teachers lack ofunderstanding of the cognitive skills underlying the application of these technologies and secondtheir failure to understand the importance of spatial thinking. By addressing teachers need forknowledge preliminary findings indicated that the programme was successful in recognising: thateducational change takes time even with considerable support; that some knowledge aspects areassimilated quicker than others and that spatial vocabulary and concept understanding are key tospatial thinking.4 Role of Tertiary Education Institutions in Improving School GeographyThe traditional role of tertiary institutions in improving education standards at school level is inoffering appropriate geography teacher education and training. Whether courses are keeping up todate with curriculum developments needs to be evaluated. Another role which tertiary institutionsplay is to offer upgrading programmes for in-service teachers. Perhaps further research is requiredto evaluate these initiatives too. A new role is proposed for tertiary institutions – to promote thestatus of school Geography by recognising its potential value and adding it to the lists of compulsorypre-requisite subjects required for relevant courses at tertiary level.In the past, school Geography had an unfortunate reputation of being a soft option, a subject thatcould be passed at matric level without too much effort. It was never seen as a contender in theserious subject stakes like Mathematics and Science or even Accountancy. One reason is that thesesubjects are compulsory for acceptance into many science and commerce degrees at tertiaryeducation institutions. They are subjects that have long enjoyed conversion to IT learning platforms.After „pure‟ computer studies, Mathematics currently enjoys priority in school computerlaboratories.Recognising the paucity of mathematics and science education during the apartheid years, initiativesat the highest level have attempted to improve learning in these subject areas. One such initiative isthe Dinaledi programme which has already led to marked improvements. For example, in KwaZulu-Natal where „only 5% of the high schools in the province are Dinaledi schools, (but) they contributeover 20% to the mathematics and science passes‟ (ASSAf, 2010: 25).GIS is not just another teaching resource that can be added to the geography classroom like a globe,wall map or personal computer linked to digital projector. The advancement of spatial thinking andthe development of the geo-spatial technologies that have both inspired and stimulated spatialthinking (NRC, 2006), have the potential to completely revolutionise teaching in, for and about the
  14. 14. world. Programmes such as AGSSS (Bednarz and Bednarz, 2008) can be useful in setting highstandards for future geography teacher training in first world settings. While these lofty goalsmay be attained by all in time, the current needs of geography learners (and their teachers) in SouthAfrica must be addressed.5 ConclusionReasons for the current low levels of spatial competence have been identified. The factors thatimpact on the Geography classroom as a nursery for GIS education at tertiary level have beenexamined. Improvements in spatial competence can eventually be expected: policies are in place,some teachers are willing, many learners are striving, individual vendors are supplying resources. Butfurther impetus is still required to improve the scores in the Geography practical examination that isthe indicator of the spatial competence of South African school leavers.Unless Geography enjoys the status of school subjects that are compulsory for acceptance intocourses at tertiary level it will never be able to stand its ground in contending for effectively trainedteachers, IT resources and additional support at school level. While it has long been a recommendedschool subject for a variety of courses, it is not a prerequisite course, not even for first yearGeography at many universities. As Geographic Information Science establishes itself as an academicdiscipline it can strengthen school Geography by making it a pre-requisite for entry level GISccourses and for GIS components in a range of courses at colleges and universities of technology (forexample Surveying and Cartography).It is proposed that research be undertaken to establish how and why the current additional supportfor Mathematics and Science has been effective and then how best these findings can be adapted toimprove the teaching of Geography with the specific goal of improving spatial skills. When learnersleave school and enter tertiary education or training, their aspirations of progressing through GISprogrammes successfully should be met. Additional academic support at tertiary level in the area ofspatial competence development should no longer be necessary. The general standard of the spatialcompetence of South African school leavers should cease to be an embarrassment.Anecdotal references(In order of appearance in the text: Rossouw on page 1, Mini and Lanser on page 8)Rossouw, C 2011, References made to GIS use in South Africa at an executive committee meeting ofthe Western Cape Branch of GISSA (Geo-Information Society of South Africa), 09.02.2011.Mini, SE 2011, References made to GIS and its influence on Geography at a UNISA GeographyDepartment Research Seminar held at the UNISA Florida Campus, 28.01.2011.Lanser, J 2011, References made to the use of GIS in teaching Geography at the Western CapeIndependent Schools Board (IEB) Geography Conference held at Elkanah House, Parklands, CapeTown, 29.01.2011.References
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