EDUCATION: Youngsters lacking direction

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Fewer than half of British children can locate London on a map with no place names, according to research carried out by NOP for Microsoft. The survey of nearly 900 children aged eight to 16 also found that only just over a quarter could pinpoint Edinburgh, and 37 per cent could not find Scotland.

The Government's curriculum advisers said they found the children's ignorance "disturbing". Geography has been a compulsory part of the national curriculum for children aged eight to 14 since 1991 - voluntary from 14 to 16 - and identifying principal cities, regions and rivers on a map of the United Kingdom is something all 11-year-olds should have covered.

The survey suggests that they are even more at sea outside their own country. Only two in five could identify Germany on a map of Europe with no place names. Three out of five did not know the language spoken in Tokyo and nearly seven out of 10 were stumped when asked Mexico's main language.