Thursday, 23 January 2014

Discovering geography with NEC

Discovering geography with NEC

In today’s increasingly globalised society, the scope of stories covered by our news and media is wider ranging than ever before. We have become more aware of what events are going on all around our world, and have an increased interest in learning about and understanding them.

Recently talked-about topics in the UK include EU migration and the Christmas storms, while further afield Indonesia’s Mount Sinabung made headlines when it began erupting lava at the end of last year. You may have heard about all three of these stories in the news during the last month, but what you might not realise is that these seemingly unrelated topics can actually be studied through a single discipline.

Human migration, weather patterns and volcanic activity are all related to the subject of geography, and this is the subject we are shining the spotlight on in today’s blog. At its heart, geography is essentially the study of planet Earth, its inhabitants, and how the two relate to one another. The subject can be divided into two main branches: human and physical. The former deals with the study of humankind, while the latter looks at physical processes and the natural world.

This level of variety in study areas makes geography a hugely broad and versatile subject, with applications in a wide range of careers. For example, in order to address an issue such as the movement of people from one place to another, we have to take into account the context of the issue. In this case, we first have to understand why people wish to move in the first place–and that is where geography comes in.

NEC’s geography courses take a close look at both the human and physical aspects of geography. Both our IGCSE and A level courses involve investigation of highly pertinent topics such as climate change, population, and world food supply, as well as imparting skills ranging from map-reading (IGCSE) to interpretation of complex data (A level).

Geography is also a subject that encourages you to get out into the world and explore it for yourself, first-hand. Fieldwork makes up a part of our A level and IGCSE courses: students carry out investigations in and around their home area, not just to answer specific questions on the examination paper, but also to develop their geographical skills. But how difficult is it for distance learning students to carry out this fieldwork?

‘It needs not be at all difficult,’ says Alison, one of NEC’s geography tutors. ‘In fact, students should be stimulated rather than daunted by this aspect of their studies: geographical investigations do not need a laboratory. The real world is the geographer’s laboratory and it is here that theories and models are proved and disproved. Investigations can almost always be carried out in a student’s home area.’

Students often worry that they will need specialised equipment that is difficult to obtain in order to collect the data needed for an investigation, but in fact most investigations can be carried out using household items. ‘For instance,’ explains Alison, ‘it is possible to measure the speed of a river as it flows downstream using just dog biscuits as floats, a stopwatch and a tape measure.’

Our world is constantly changing, and fieldwork–including that carried out by NEC students–provides new information and avenues for exploration. ‘There are not many subjects where students can feel that they are at the “cutting edge” of development, but geography is certainly one, and this is your chance to do some original research,’ Alison says.

As more work is carried out in geography, so the subject evolves. Alison concludes: ‘As a final note, it is worthwhile remembering that the theories and examples found in textbooks were produced from fieldwork carried out by people who were once students themselves!’

If you have an interest in understanding our world, this fascinating and versatile subject is one you will want to study. To learn more about NEC’s geography courses, or to view our full range of flexible distance learning courses, visit our website for more information, or contact us and speak to our team.

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