Australian Geoscience Council Inc.

Letters

Communications I Letters

Letters from the Australian Geoscience Council relating to the Council’s activities and of interest to members are listed here.

Comments are welcome and should be directed to the relevant author.

28 July 2010

To Whom It May Concern:

Proposed Senior Curriculum for Earth and Environmental Science

Dear Sir or Madam,

The Australian Geoscience Council (AGC) is the Peak Council of geoscientists in Australia. It represents eight major Australian geoscientific societies with a total membership of over 7,000 individuals comprising industry, government and academic professionals in the fields of geology, geophysics, geochemistry, mineral and petroleum exploration, environmental and engineering geoscience, hydrogeology and geological hazards.

Our objectives are to:

  • Provide expert apolitical advice to governments on matters involving the geosciences and their application;
  • Promote the development of scientifically sound policies for effective geoscience education and research; and
  • Provide the Australian public with a greater appreciation of the economic, environmental and cultural values of the geosciences.

We take a passionate interest in all levels of education relating to the broad area of geosciences. By way of example, we support the Teacher Earth Science Education Program (TESEP), http://www.tesep.org.au, and publish an ongoing series of geoscience education newsletters focused on school programs in geoscience – GeoEdLink. Indeed we have made a number of submissions at various stages of consultation regarding the proposed introduction of a National Curriculum.

In one of our earlier submissions the AGC has noted the curriculum should “…address the revolution in earth systems science that has occurred over the last 20 years that places biological, including human, activity as one of the major controlling forces in shaping the planet and its life support processes. A national science curriculum should recognise the interdependence and feedback mechanisms between geological and biological, particularly human, drivers in shaping the earth’s environment and the availability of resources such as water and arable land as well as the minerals and energy resources that support human existence”. Similarly, we have argued in previous submissions that the curriculum will provide the “… essential context for future generations of citizens and decision makers in confronting the difficult decisions in the face of global change including climate change… This idea defines the need for Earth and Environmental Science to be taught as an integrated whole and is an exemplar of the necessity for inter-disciplinary thinking.”

We therefore strongly endorse the submissions prepared by the National Committee for Earth Sciences (on behalf of the Academy of Science), the Heads of Earth Science Departments from Australian Universities, and various state curriculum bodies (e.g., Victoria) that support a substantial re-working of the proposed Senior Curriculum for Earth and Environmental Sciences. These submissions all point to the need for a more integrated approach in which the geosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere are handled together, with a strong focus on the interactions between these spheres and the ways in which each has influenced evolution of the other through Earth’s history, continuing to the present day. As noted in these submissions, the ability for students (and their teachers) to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of the EES is hampered by the current format in which the Earth Sciences content is disconnected from the Environmental Science material, and links between each of the units are poorly developed. Currently Earth Scientists argue that Unit 4 is far too lightweight for year 12 and Environmental Scientists argue that the units are too strongly weighted towards the Earth Sciences, particularly geology. All argue that there is far too much to deliver in 4 units, that the distribution of material is unbalanced, and that the complexity is inappropriately arranged across years 11 and 12. In our view, as has been expressed by others, this could be circumvented with a more earth systems approach.

The AGC certainly welcomes the opportunity to provide a submission and applauds the consultation process. We eagerly await the revised version of the curriculum that we understand will be released for further consultation early next year.

Yours faithfully,

Michael D Leggo
President

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