Basic navigation skills are being lost, the institute said

Basic navigation skills are being lost, the institute said

Britons are losing their way when it comes to map reading – because of their reliance on technology.

Basic navigation skills are being lost as we become increasingly dependent on electronic gadgets to guide us, a learned body said.

The Royal Institute of Navigation is calling on UK schools to teach basic skills in finding their way to counteract the fact society is being ‘sedated by software’

The London-based organisation, which was founded 68 years ago, said teaching navigation is a way to develop character, independence and an appreciation of maths and science.

Roger McKinlay, president of the institute, said: “It is concerning that children are no longer routinely learning at home or school how to do anything more than press ‘search’ buttons on a device to get anywhere.

“Many cannot read a landscape, an Ordnance Survey map, or find their way to a destination with just a compass, let alone wonder at the amazing role astronomy plays in establishing a precise location.

“Instead, generations are now growing up utterly dependent on signals and software to find their way around.

“But much more is being lost. Traditional navigation skills encourage independent thought based on calculation and self-reliance, and have throughout history. Fortunately, Captain Cook did not wait for a sat nav signal to reach south-east Australia.

“Global positioning satellites are a great innovation, but they are turning course setting by instrument and calculation, which has guided how civilisation developed, into little more than a heritage talent.

“As anyone who has struggled to get a signal, or wondered why their sat-nav has turned them ‘left’ when ‘right’ was plainly correct knows, technology cannot always be relied upon.

The human brain 'is better at working out a sensible route'

The human brain 'is better at working out a sensible route'

“The trained human brain is infinitely better in a crisis at working out a sensible route and taking in all relevant data, such as weather and terrain.”

The institute, whose patron is the Duke of Edinburgh and whose current membership includes Polar explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, wants to widen an understanding of core navigation skills.

Mr McKinlay said: “Nations including ours grew wealthy and strong in part due to a drive for exploration that relied on navigation. The skills we are shrugging off are part of our collective DNA.”

He said an unquestioned consensus that computers are ‘the fountain of all knowledge’ is part of the problem.

“It is also hard to escape the view that one reason navigation skills are not taught is that it takes people from a controllable classroom, indoors, to the world outside,” he said.

“There is a wider issue than navigation here. Our view is that reliance on computers presents no conceptual challenges.

“The human brain is left largely inert and untaxed while calculations are made electronically, by a software ‘brain’ without the elasticity to make connections and judgements.”