Geography Olympiad Or What’s Wrong With Education in Latvia

One school pupil from Riga contacted the Workers’ Front of Latvia and told us about his recent experience in participating in the Olympiad in Geography.

According to his story, the third Olympiad of Riga in Geography was held on January 22 in the assembly hall of the 2nd Riga State Gymnasium. Students in 8th and 9th grades sat next to each other, answering questions that were shown on the projector. Possibly, such a method of conducting that was not typical for olympiads was applied in order to reduce the worry of participants and create a more creative atmosphere. Did the means justify the goal?

There were 6 tasks in the Olympiad, for each of which a separate answer sheet was allocated. While the students were filling out answers to the second task, the first was already being evaluated. Short description of tasks:

  • The first task was devoted to political events. Having shown awareness of the latest news, it was necessary to answer in which country or city each event specified in the task occurred.
  • The second task was called “Google Images”. The so-called “doodles” were shown on the screen (from the English doodle, that is, a special image that appears on some special dates in Google instead of the usual logo). The participants had to guess in honor of which country each image was made.
  • The third assignment was completely dedicated to Donald Trump. The questions are very unusual. For example, how many women have sued Trump for sexual harassment and how many of them have been able to prove this in court. Recall that the Olympiad is designed for students in eighth and ninth grades! What kind of education and development can we talk about here ?! There was also a question about the zodiac sign under which Trump was born, and about the city in which the sculpture of his head is located. And that’s one sixth of the geography Olympiad’s assignments – not Trump’s biography!
  • The fourth task was called “Horticulture”. The names of the plants displayed on the screen should be written. Why this name was chosen and what it has to do with geography was not explained.
  • The fifth section was work with text. It was necessary to find the requested information in the text. The only thing that could prevent getting the maximum number of points is only a time limit. Once again, we recall that at the Olympiad in Geography, you should check knowledge of geography, and not language skills.
  • The final assignment was called “My Riga”. Participants answered questions about the districts of Riga, public transport, etc., which was perhaps the closest to the declared discipline, which actually was the Olympiad.

So, geography (Greek geo – Earth and kratos – to write) is a system of natural science and social knowledge exploring the Earth, its characteristics, the spread of life on Earth (including the influence of people and human activities). In turn, the Olympics is an event for the most talented students.

Why didn’t they test our profound knowledge about the subject matter at the Olympics? Why were the tasks applicable to areas that could only remotely be tied to the subject of geography research?

You can find the answer in the education system of Latvia. An article about this is going to be published on the WFL web page soon.