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Nearly all the teachers responding to a recent poll consider the quality of geography education in American schools fair or poor, and three-fourths of them consider themselves ill-prepared to teach the subject, a survey commissioned by Rand McNally, the map publisher, has concluded.

The survey of 852 elementary and secondary teachers found that 75 percent of teachers said geography no longer has an adequate place in the curriculum and that students are not motivated to learn it because it is not a required course. But most teachers said students are more interested in the subject than students were five or 10 years ago.

Although previous studies, including the recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress, have highlighted students' lack of geographic awareness, noted Dennis DeCock, vice president of Rand McNally's educational-publishing division, the survey is the first to examine "the factors which caused the decline in geographic education."

To improve the teaching of the subject, Rand McNally announced last month that it will sponsor a contest to award $10,000 to the teacher who comes up with the best geography-related classroom project.

More information about the contest is available from Rand McNally-National Council for Geographic Education, Excellence in Geography Teaching Awards, P.O. Box 654, Skokie, Ill. 60076.

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