The status of GIS teaching in South African secondary schools including an evaluation of Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) using QGIS software and OpenStreetMap (OSM) data as teac
2021-10-01, 13:00–13:30, Buenos Aires

South Africa is one of only a few countries that has Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the secondary school curriculum. Of these few, SA is even more singular as its Geography syllabus includes GIS geoprocessing. The status of GIS teaching in secondary schools is investigated with the aim to determine if the use of Open Source software and data such as QGIS and OSM would facilitate the use of GIS as a teacher intervention. The data was collected by means of an online questionnaire and a smaller sample was interviewed. Results from this study show that only a minority of teachers teach practical GIS classes irrespective of their Examination Board, access to hardware, how resourced their school is or whether they teach at a private or a government school. The key determinants to teaching practical GIS lessons are the teacher’s perceived GIS expertise and access to GIS data and time. Software, connectivity, and power supply were also identified as challenges.
Teachers who participated in the study overwhelming agree that there are numerous benefits to using GIS in the classroom. They also expressed a keen willingness to attend GIS courses and learn more about FOSS4G tools. A sample group evaluated how OSM could be used to create local GIS spatial data and how QGIS can be used to teach the GIS curriculum and used to map local data for individual research projects. FOSS4G empowers teachers with the means to create exciting, real, and relevant teaching content that can be used on all platforms, especially in online teaching, if required. There is an urgent need for more current research, both globally and locally, into how GIS can be used more in secondary school pedagogy.

This talk will describe how GIS has reached a new phase in its technical development where teachers are no longer limited by what the GIS software can do and instead they can develop the critical spatial thinking aspects of Geography that GIS provides. However, there is very little published research on FOSS4G (Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial) and OSM (OpenStreetMap) data in the classroom. The use of FOSS4G in GIS education provides several advantages, but at the same time introduces challenges. These advantages and challenges will be discussed. The research to date has tended to focus on FOSS4G at tertiary rather than at secondary level. The lack of published research is one of the shortcomings that have been observed in the use of GIS globally. This talk will discuss how rare GIS studies at secondary school level are in southern Africa and confirmed the serious need for local studies of GIS applications in secondary schools globally.

Authors and Affiliations

SAGTA (Southern Africa Geography Teachers' Association), University of the Witwatersrand.


Education & research




1 - Principiants. No required specific knowledge is needed.

Language of the Presentation


Bridget Fleming is a passionate advocate for using FOSS4G in the classroom. She has taught at secondary school level for close to thirty years and is now involved in teacher training. She holds a MSc (Wits) qualification, loves the outdoors, her family and life.