The International Geography Youth Summit-2018 saw some brilliant presentations from students from different backgrounds, be it full-time school going students or the homeschooling students. Their knowledge and expertise was showcased through these presentations. Dr Susan Roberts, Professor of Geography and Associate Provost for Internationalization, University of Kentucky, who did her keynote talk gets candid with Harini Naidu of DHSE on Indian students and their knowledge on the subject.
How has your experiences been when you speak about geography or concepts to children in India?
This is the first time of me being here so I do not have many years to compare to. But I think I am very impressed by the imagination the students show and they seem to be very willing to expand their idea of geography.
Do you think India is still naive with such open concepts of education or do you still see some improvement?
I don‘t have comparisons so I can‘t say about a trend but what I can compare to is the United States where I teach and maybe Britain. So it seems that in a weird way because things are more expansive and the creative kind of approach to geography, that students are really responding positively to that and maybe because they have already had exposure to more boring and straightforward kind of empirical geography. But that would be what would happen in Britain but in the US it‘s different. It‘s changing slowly here as well.
In India, especially in Bangalore, there are lot of sustainable buildings that are coming up, due to surge in pollution and other climatic conditions. So, globally at least in the US, do you see any sustainability or laws imposed, which could be helped here?
I think the way students learn about environmental issues in geography is very important because it isn‘t a very narrow approach so they are able to easily connect the dots, they are able to connect lets say a policy about sustainable development and a corporate green campaign, and they are able to connect that through the conditions of the production of the materials for the buildings to the what‘s happening to the property prices in the neighbourhood to employment to all kinds of socio-economic issues as well as environment issues. So I think geography is a perfect way to think about environmental issues.
Considering the recent example on the 12 Thai boys being stuck in the cave and how they were helped out by a mapping done by Vernon Unsworth, do you think such training should be given to school kids?
I think it is a tremendous plan of learning through place and learning about place. Some of the very strong presentation I heard from students in the two days of IGYS-2018 conference about different aspects, they have gone out and they have learnt in field circles. And this is not just about human geography but also on physical geographies and geologies similarly. So these kind of field-based learning or place-based learning skills are very important. They are important for problem-solving and for analysis, which can also be helped to make the world a better place.
We are in an education system where your marks matter more than a value-based education. So how do you draw a fine line between value-based education and competency-based education?
Well, I am a geography evangelist and I think it is a good subject to think about. You do need to know the basics. You need the basic competency in reading spacial representation or maps of different source. You have to have the decent awareness of statistics.
Let‘s say if you are employed if you have the decent understanding of empirical analysis or methods.
But on top of that, you have to have the capacity to put ample resources to put these together and feel this to tackle more complicated issues, where value-based education takes over. So, it should be a balance of both.