Some six year olds are not very good at geography

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 23 October 2006

The "finding" that 1 in 5 UK school children can't point to the UK on a map is currently whizzing around the internet and being reported as far afield as Australia - "Q: Where is the United Kingdom? A: You're standing in it " - and India.

Funnily enough, most people don't seem to be reporting it as "commercial company selling geography magazine aimed at children releases headline grabbing statistic which suggests parents need to buy their children geographic magazines. That's handy, eh?"

That hasn't stopped the press in UK spinning the results from a small survey of 1000 children between the ages of 6 and 14 into all geography teaching is bad, and according to The Mirror, the factual assertion that "20,000 London children did not realise they lived in the capital".

Unfortunately I haven't been able to track down the original press release online - National Geographic's press office only seems to have press releases available up until the 18th of October, or the results of the survey itself to have a look beyond the headlines.

It was the quote from Professor Alan Smithers that caught my eye

How are children going to be able to get as much out of their life if they fail to have an understanding of the shape of the world?

I noticed it primarily because it was so similar to what he said about the downturn in students taking Physics a couple of months ago :

What kind of grip are we going to have on the world if we do not understand its physical structure?

At least The Sun treated the finding with the academic rigour it appears to deserve:

ONE in five children can’t point to the UK on a map, says a shocking new survey.

But is it any wonder kids fail . . .

In a country which made celebrated dimwit Jade Goody a millionaire?

Though, of course, they don't appear to want to take any responsibility themselves for that latter fact.

Keep up to date on my new blog