Pop quiz: Can you name three explorers who are living today?

Explorers of a bygone era are quite easy to recall: Christopher Columbus, Bartholomew Diaz, Vasco da Gama, Magellan and Amerigo Vespucci …

Many people today have forgotten the importance and the meaning of geography, thinking it pointless when every inch of the earth has already been mapped and anyone can call up a satellite image of any location on earth.

"It’s a dead science," some say; "something only smelly old researchers care about."

People question the need to study cartography because they can figure where they are by following GPS and they can find out any country’s capital city by consulting Google.

They could not be more wrong: a knowledge of geography now is more crucial than ever before!

This brings us to the question: What is geography?

Essentially it deals with a study of the physical features of the earth and its atmosphere as well as how human activity affects and is affected by these. It also looks at population and resource distribution, and economic and political activities.

Yes, we know about capital cities, countries and continents, but how will we know how this beautiful blue planet, our home, is changing if no-one is keeping an eye on it?

What? Did you say the continents are changing?

This astonishment is amazingly common and deeply disconcerting.

It is for this reason that we aim to drive out antiquated thinking about a subject as influential as geography.

It is our quest to put you on a path of discovering truths and a gaining a deeper understanding of: the earth and social systems, careers you may embark upon and how to satisfy a hunger for geographical knowledge you never knew you had.

Why Study Geography at Matric Level?

aerial view of question mark shaped island in lake
Our changing world: enough reason to study geography! (Source: Unsplash)

It is commendable that Geography is still part of the South African curriculum, from Grade 4 to 9, albeit coupled with History as Social Sciences, and as Geography from Grade 10 to 12. This cannot be said about several other countries, like the UK, where it was not part of the Key Stage curriculum for several years. The first Geography National Curriculum re-established Geography as a statutory subject of study for UK children between the ages of 5 and 16 in 2014.

Indeed, this was an important move … in the right direction.

Consider the host of jobs or careers presently filled by people with geography degrees: geographic information systems specialists and people trained in urban geography, oceanographers and climatologists.

Who will perform their functions in the future, if fewer students pursue geography as a course of study?

It is important for world regional geography education to be taught throughout secondary school so that learners can understand that events in one region may have an impact on another, as we have seen with the spread of the Corona virus in 2020.

Fortunately, in South Africa we have not, up to now, had to endure catastrophic weather or large-scale natural disasters, such as tsunamis, but such disasters affect us all in some way or another, especially when we consider the global economy.

This consciousness of how closely we are all interlinked or connected should firmly cement why a study of geography to matric level is an important and crucial decision.

Let a Tutor Teach You Geography

Until a few decades ago, a study of geography mainly entailed learning about capitals, countries and continents; major bodies of water and mountain ranges. Learners simply had to indicate them on a map and not do much more.

Learners were merely expected to memorise a lot of place, ocean or mountain names and give them back in an exam. No time was granted for them to explore any concept which captivated them.

This is exactly why parents employed tutors!

Geography is regarded as the ‘mother’ of all the other sciences and is made up of widely different branches, such as:

  • Urban studies: the study of life in an urban environment.
  • Climatology: the study of climate and its effect on the world.
  • Economic geography: the distribution and spatial organisation of economic activity around the world.
  • Environmental geography: studies the relationship between people and their environments.
  • Social geography: the relationship between social phenomena and the environment in which they occur.
  • Cultural geography: the study of cultural standards and artefacts in relation to the spaces those cultures occupy.
  • Applied geography: the relationship between humans and the natural environment.
  • Biogeography is the study of biological communities within their ecosystems.

From the above brief list, one can see that one geography tutor will not, necessarily, be able to provide for the needs of all the various facets of the subject. Different experts may be required to satisfy all the requirements of one or a few of the specialised fields within this grand old dame called geography.

crowds of people in city
Geographers of the future will study and catalogue the urban environment! (Source: Unsplash)

That is why, in you attempt to find a tutor, a number of points need to be considered.

1. Is the tutor conversant with the intricacies of the matric geography exam?

It is common knowledge that the matric exam changes its format every few years, so a tutor would best benefit you if he or she was aware of the most recent version. The same would hold true if you’re preparing for varsity (undergrad) exams.

2. Will your prospective tutor meet with you once or several times weekly, especially as exam dates draw closer?

It wouldn’t be to your advantage to have a well-informed geography tutor who is unavailable when you need him or her most.

3. How will your tutor conduct lessons and where? Does online tutoring catch your fancy?

Nowadays, many tutors work via webcam and you could actually find high quality tutoring at a fairly low price!

On the other hand, your cash outlay may be quite a bit more, if you choose an in-home tutor, since you may need to cover your tutor’s transport costs and his or her time on the road.

4. Would a tutor from a tutoring agency work for you?

The rates for this type of tutor may be somewhat higher, as the agency reserves a percentage to cover the business’s overhead costs. The benefits of employing such a tutor, however, is that such a person would be a fully qualified teacher and fairly experienced.

The important point to remember here is that, even if you do not continue with Geography through to matric, you could still have become familiar with earth systems and the whole notion of sustainability during your preceding years at school.

Online Geography Courses

As you consider your options in this little Geography conundrum, you’ll be pleased to know that there are numerous online avenues to explore to keep alive what you’ve already learned.

There are also options to help you expand on your knowledge base, too!

Think about MOOCs: Massive Open Online Courses.

They, very often, cover learning over a six-week period; however, you could breeze through each class in a shorter period of time.

When you sign up for an MOCC, the expectation is that you would spend at least three hours per week on these studies – an extremely moderate parameter! Of course, nothing precludes you from devoting more time to revisiting this subject matter that you find so exceptionally interesting.

notebook embossed with four points of compass next to laptop
There are several online geography courses available. (Source: Unsplash)

MOOCs, in the main, have no preconditions which means that you needn’t have completed any particular course before proceeding with any course offering. Also, although most MOOCs are research institute- and university sponsored, it does not imply that you have to be an undergraduate.

The Internet will give you access to many open courses that relate to geography. Some touch on climate change and urban development, while others investigate the oceans and the physical features of countries.

Looking for materials to review? Quizlet Geography may be useful.

Quizlet is a learning service which combines quizzes, games and flashcards to present you the opportunity to complete a well-rounded review.

Be aware that Quizlet is mainly geared towards Human Geography aligned with the American Advanced Placement syllabus, but it still has some use for us as you can test yourself as well as play games!

For the most part, the use of Quizlet is free, although some sections offer resources at a fee.

Did You Know?


One of the benefits of  studying geography is enhanced spatial awareness. 

In essence, heightened spatial awareness means that you visualise your movements as if you had a map inside your head, similar to a GPS display, but only in 2D.

You can even tune into geography podcasts as you cruise about the urban landscape or over undulating countryside.

These resources are all available free of charge and depend only upon how diligent you are to your independent study.

If you are someone who constantly needs to be reminded of the need to perform specific tasks, then an online tutor may be exactly what you need.

Most tutors work for a fee, not for free. Superprof tutors will, however, offer their first session, which lasts up to an hour, at no charge to you. This first session can help you to become acquainted with one another and see if your goals and his or her academic background and teaching style are in sync.

To ascertain if this is the route you should follow, continue to read about in-home tutoring costs and online geography tutoring.

diver and underwater shipwreck
Can you believe that a geography degree could lead you to sunken treasure? (Source: Unsplash)

What Can a Geography Degree Do for You?

Before we continue, let’s answer the question about three modern-day explorers.

  • Bear Grylls, a Scout leader and adventurer who continues pushing himself to the limit; this is often done for charity.
  • The greatest living explorer according to the Guinness Book of Records’ (1984) is Ranulph Fiennes; he’s still out there and at it!
  • Robert Ballard, a leader in deep-sea exploration, is the discoverer of hydrothermal vents, the Titanic, the German battleship Bismarck and other shipwrecks around the world.

So, to What Amazing Expeditions Can a Degree in Geography Lead You?

If you’re concerned about the way that the environment is changing and hope to find answers to the questions which most trouble mankind today, then a study of geography is the perfect point from which to start.

An undergraduate would encounter the following introductory features in their geography course of study: human geography, the physical environment, contemporary challenges in the South African city.

Students will participate in fieldwork and attend five lectures per week. You will also complete one practical assignment every week.

Using this degree as a stepping stone, you could specialise in one of the following fields:

  • Environmental and Geographical Science
  • Environment, Society and Sustainability
  • Climate Change and Development.

Imagine the adventure the exploration of this science offers! 

A geography career could be highly gratifying to you! You will be a qualified forerunner in every effort to conserve the planet’s resources for future generations.

Yours will be the privilege to break new ground in urbanisation and the conservation of natural resources. If, on the other hand, you prefer oceanography, you might be only the third person to explore the great depths of the Mariana Trench!

There are now submarines that can descend to that great depth (around 11 km) as the U.S. submersible proved … in 1960!

You could be the one who finds out why whale pods continue to beach themselves in New Zealand …

Scores of students speculate what value a geography degree would hold for them. This could be premised on the idea that we have nothing new to explore and uncover as relates to the climatic conditions, the earth and its biodiversity.

Doesn't this make us sound terribly cynical and bored?

Go on, prove everyone wrong. Stay curious and uncover your own reasons to swot geography.

Need a Geography teacher?

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Career teacher turned writer. Passionate about family, running, and the great outdoors.