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Distant places: a distant issue? “The requirement to study distant places is perhaps one of the more problematic areas of the primary school curriculum..it raises questions about stereotypes and prejudice..” (Scoffham & Potter, 2007). Discuss the difficulties raised in this aspect of primary geography and some possible solutions.

Distant places: a distant issue? “The requirement to study distant places is perhaps one of the more problematic areas of the primary school curriculum..it raises questions about stereotypes and prejudice..” (Scoffham & Potter, 2007). Discuss the difficulties raised in this aspect of primary geography and some possible solutions.

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Hannah McConaghie. Originally submitted for Primary Teacher Eduction , with lecturer Dr Richard Greenwood in the category of Teacher Education
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards Competition by Hannah McConaghie. Originally submitted for Primary Teacher Eduction , with lecturer Dr Richard Greenwood in the category of Teacher Education

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 30, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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05/13/2014

 
ED13281
“ 
The requirement to study distant places is perhaps one of the more problematic areas of the primary school curriculum..it raises questions about stereotypes and prejudice
..” 
(Scoffham &Potter, 2007). Discuss the difficulties raised in this aspect of primary geography and some possiblesolutions.
In society today people are obsessed with human rights and equality, yet the area of multiculturaleducation is often neglected because of the controversial questions it raises about stereotypes andprejudices (Scoffham and Potter 2007, p5). However, if children are to receive a modern education it isessential they learn about all parts of their world. In this essay I will address some of the difficulties thatthis area of primary geography raises and suggest practical solutions which can be adopted so that thearea of cultural diversity can be fully explored in every primary school.Firstly I will provide a rationale for the development of international understanding. The NI curriculum(2007 p.3) says schools have a responsibility to provide a
“ 
broad and balanced curriculum
” 
so thatchildren are prepared for our rapidly changing world. We live in an increasingly multicultural society andthe Geographical Association (formed 1893) point out that
“links and connections between people and 
 places around the world are becoming ever more apparent as we move further int 
o the 21st Century.” 
Links with distant places are part of everyday life, for example where food comes from or where ourclothes are made, however less emphasis is put on making links with the people in these distantcountries. Children must be taught to appreciate those from other countries as people in their own rightand cultural understanding can be used as a means of responding to racism in Britain.The WAU section of the NI curriculum (2007 p.40) says
“children are naturally curious and often ask 
 profound questions about themselves and the nature of the world around 
[them]
.” The
teacher mustmeet this curiosity by teaching interesting topics and allowing children to explore this area themselves.The NI curriculum (2007 p.40) also suggests that children should develop
“ 
an appreciation of the beauty and wonder of the world.
” 
 
As they study images of distant places they will learn to appreciate the beautyof the world and teachers should be enthusiastic about developing a sense of awe for the world they area part of.The teaching of distant places undoubtedly raises problems, problems which must be dealt with in theprimary sector before children become established in their attitudes and become
“less receptive to
 foreigners and other people and cultures
” 
Scoffham and Potter (2007 p.6).
 
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Firstly, some children today have little understanding of the world they live in and prejudice attitudes canbe developed when pupils have little knowledge of people from distant countries. Hughes (2008 p39)says that 
“too often we not only fail to understand people who are different from us, but also view themnegatively.” 
 Pupils pick up on these negative attitudes from family members, images, the media andsadly teachers. Instead of trying to eliminate these sources, I feel it is important to develop withinchildren the ability to challenge information. Research recorded by Scoffham and Potter (2007 p.7)
suggests that some children have an attitude of ‘they are right, others are odd’
simply because others aredifferent. This attitude should be challenged as they draw similarities between their lives and the lives of people living in real places across their globe. Scoffham (2004 p.20) says the study of distant places helpsto
“develop their sense of individuality 
” as well as challenging them about their own attitudes andvalues.” Bates and Pickering
(2010 p.19) argue that if a child is old enough to have developed an ideaabout a distant place they are old enough to have that idea challenged, however we need to be careful
we don’t simply replace challenged ideas with new stereotypes.
Study by Scoffham and Potter (2007, p5)has shown pupils prefer countries that are similar to their own and so area linking can be useful, howeverfrom my experience I have found that children are fascinated by difference and so we should take everyopportunity to explore diversity.A further problem is that children can have an unrealistic or outdated outlook on distant countries.
Images shown through the media or in children’s books
for example of an African country often showscenes of great material deprivation and this can create misconceptions. Scoffham (2004 p19) says
“children’s natural curiosity about distant places
 feeds off these stimuli 
” 
and so teachers must be carefulin their selection of images. Pictures date rapidly so images should be updated regularly from newsstories, real life images, videos or well managed internet sites. Teachers must be careful that children
don’t label a whole country after looking at one image.
Instead, Stephen Pickering, (from Nelson 2005p20) when trying to represent life in Kenya, carefully choose two contrasting photos. It is also importantchildren realise economic poverty does not run parallel with cultural poverty. Instead Graves (2002) sayseconomically poor countries are usually
“rich in art, cultural expression and social traditions.” 
Schoollinking can be another useful way of developing international understanding as children can have directcontact with school children across the globe. From my own experience, real life visits from nativepeople or those who have spent time in a country are invaluable. During teaching practice I found ituseful to bring in a speaker to talk about schools in Malawi, something I had limited knowledge on. Theclass spent time before the visit framing questions and I found this was a useful way of channelling theircuriosity and challenging their preconceived ideas. As well as school partnerships and real life visitsGraham and Lynn (1989 p32) suggest children and their parents from ethnic minority backgrounds are a
 
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“much underestimated resource” 
 
as they have a wealth of knowledge that couldn’t be found from a
textbook or internet site.A third problem stemming from the study of distant places is that some teachers have insufficientknowledge about or negative attitude towards distant places. Palmer (1994) says,
“misconceptions can
be re-i 
nforced through a teacher’s genuine ignorance of particular facts or biased viewpoint.” 
Teachersneed to be skilled in facilitating discussions and tackling controversial issues. Class discussions help todevelop understanding by allowing children to make judgements and challenge ideas on some bigquestions within a neutral environment. It is vital that stereotypes grown from the media or families areaddressed. Scoffham (2004 p.21) says if stereotypes are left unchallenged
“they will harden into prejudices.” 
They also need to have sufficient knowledge to provide pupils with the resources they needto make informed decisions. Abound (1988) states that,
“children over the age of seven are cognitively capable of making their own judgements on racial issues IF they have access to appropriate information.” 
However, when
questions aren’t answered prejudice attitudes are intensified and children
get confused.Teachers need to enthuse their pupils about this area of primary geography and this might involve
voicing their own opinions alongside the children’s.
 A final problem is that the study of distant places is often taught in a conservative manner withoutthought being given to the development of a more creative way of teaching. Children are often taught
on a ‘need to know’
basis. Instead the NI curriculum suggests that,
“children learn best when learning isinteractive, practical and enjoyable.” 
(2007 p.12) Bruner (1960) suggests that learning is more effectiveor
“secure” 
if it is
“keyed into existing patterns of understanding.” 
A KWL board can be used to channel
and record children’s previous knowledge and allow them to use their imagination when sugg
esting whatthey want to learn from the topic. Creative approaches allow for children to explore the topic of distantplaces further and particularly appeals to the kinaesthetic and visual learners.
Bailey and O’L
oughlin(2007) highlight the importance o
f taking a whole school approach for example having a ‘Discover Africa’
week where the development of cultural understanding is incorporated into every area of learning.Another creative approach
is the use of children’s stories.
Stephen Pickering and KS1 teacher Sam Bateshave researched this approach and suggest
that children’s stories
“present a beautiful picture of Africa” 
(2010 p.18) Stories are especially useful when looking at rural areas for example of Africa where it isharder to find similarities with their home town. Stories
such as ‘Mama Panya’s Pancakes’ by Mary and
Richard Chamberlain can be used to introduce a topic or to address and discuss more complex culturalissues. Children can relate to the experiences of fictional characters for example going to thesupermarket or making pancakes just like Mama Panya does Bates and Pickering (2010 p.18) suggest thishelps to
“develop
 
a sense of commonality, rather than a perception of difference.” 
 

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