So let’s do GIS at school?

I was surprised today when I was sent details of a GIS ‘higher’ now available in Scottish Schools. Apparently this SCQF Level 6 qualification has been offered since 2011.  I had never heard of it, and seems I was not the only one.

The curriculum is interesting and I did wonder if we should be responding to this in terms of what we teach in GIS at university-level.  However, I couldn’t resist phoning the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to get the answer to the obvious question.  A rather embarrassed member of their qualification centres team said that, although this has been available since 2011, no centres had been accredited to offer this qualification and thus no-one has ever taken it.

That this qualification asks for pre-requisites of English and Maths, but not Geography is remarkable (basic IT skills are ‘recommended’).  There would seem to be a missed opportunity to strengthen science-based geography in schools (currently taught only as a ‘social subject’) but instead we have a qualification that no-one does?  Are the SQA completely out of touch?

Bruce Gittings, University of Edinburgh

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