According to a YouGov survey commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), geography GCSE is widely recognised as the subject to study in order to understand the effects of climate change. It also reveals that young adults are more likely to agree that studying geography can help you learn about climate change (82% of 18-24 year olds), compared with older generations (72% of 55+ year olds).
In the online poll, which consulted 2029 adults in September, geography was ranked first across all subjects by men and women, across all age ranges, social class and regions, and regardless of whether the respondents had children or not.
Geography was by far the most popular subject listed, being selected by 74% of respondents – 30 percentage points higher than the second placed subject of biology (44%).
These findings coincide with the resurgence of the discipline’s popularity with a record 265,000 students choosing to sit the geography GCSE examination in summer 2019. Entries for the GCSE have also grown every year for the last nine years, and are now 50% higher than in 2010.
The geography National Curriculum and GCSE and A Level examination courses include coverage of weather, climate change, the environment, ecological systems and the carbon cycle. Studying geography GCSE offers pupils, especially those engaged by the school climate strikes but who are yet to decide their GCSE options in November, a chance to understand more about the world’s systems and processes.
During a Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) briefing for the 2019 A Level results, Derek Richardson, Vice President of Pearson, commented on the increase in humanities and social science subjects including geography: “It’s especially interesting, given the impact of climate change and current political events with Brexit and the situation across the world.”
Steve Brace, the Society’s Head of Education said: “Geography’s great strength is its combination of analysis of people, places and the environment – how they are interdependent and change at different scales.
“Geography spans the natural and social sciences and enables young people to connect the science for how our climate is changing with an analysis for how people might adapt to and mitigate against these future changes.
“Choosing geography is an ideal way for a young person to expand their understanding of climate change, will help them better understand how the world works, and develop skills that will enable them to be part of the solutions.
“The Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) is delighted to see results of this poll which identifies geography’s central importance in teaching the next generation about climate change.”
Notes to editors:
1. For further media enquiries and interview requests, please contact Lucy Preston, the Society’s Press Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7591 3019.
2. The Royal Geographical Society (with The Institute of British Geographers) is the learned society and professional body for geography. Formed in 1830, our Royal Charter of 1859 is for 'the advancement of geographical science'. Today, we deliver this objective through developing, supporting and promoting geographical research, expeditions and fieldwork, education, public engagement, and geography input to policy. We aim to foster an understanding and informed enjoyment of our world. We hold the world's largest private geographical collection and provide public access to it. We have a thriving Fellowship and membership and offer the professional accreditation 'Chartered Geographer’.
3. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2029 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 9-10 September 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
4. Answering the question “Which, if any, of the following GCSE subjects (i.e. a qualification for 14 to 16 year olds) do you think currently help teach children about climate change?”, geography was by far the most popular subject listed, being selected by 74% of respondents. This was 30 percentage points higher than the second placed subject of biology (44%).
5. Geography was ranked first across all subjects by men and women, across all age ranges, social class and GB regions, and regardless of whether the respondents had children or not. The percentage of respondents who felt geography currently helps teach children about climate change was particularly high amongst 18-24 year olds (82%), but was still the most chosen subject amongst older generations e.g. 55+ year olds (72%).
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