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Smile, it's candid Asia

PLACE AND PEOPLE: ASIA PACIFIC. Channel 4 Schools video (from last term's broadcast). Age 14-17.

Timing is a central theme for this series. First, the programme-makers must be cursing their luck over its summer broadcast slot. They created five excellent pro-grammes about Asian Pacific tiger economies, only to find them taking a spectacular nosedive. Undoubtedly the programmes would have had a slightly different outlook had they been made one year later.

9.3 = Second, time is central to the structure of each programme. A city, or a family, is seen in a series of snapshots, each taken at a different time. These begin at 4.15am in Bangkok when the children are woken to begin their journey to school. The days unfold in each location with, in the main, tirelessly busy and cheerful people. Maybe it's the fact that you naturally smile at a camera, but the unrelenting cheerfulness of the people is both memorable and remarkable. I can hear my children saying that they'd like some of what they're having.

And what are they having? Well it's here that the programmes really succeed. Each portrait, from a rice farmer in the Philippines to a factory worker in Korea, gets under the skin of a family or individual to demonstrate what drives them. Why are they working so hard? What are their ambitions? How are they moulded by the society in which they live? And to which traces of their pre-development culture do they cling? These questions are answered against the backdrop of the countries' sometimes dramatic leaps forward in terms of industrialisation and urbanisation.

Young viewers may find much of the content hard to believe. The incredible commuting patterns of gridlocked Bangkok and the dedication to work shown by young Koreans are particularly striking. The young people's hunger for education and their desire to improve their status while still giving back to family and community will also raise more than a passing comment in schools.

It's through the study of the people that we understand the driving forces behind the relevant geographical processes: growth and development, urban-rural migration, transport planning, irrigation, pollution issues I the list is long. And the programmes could have been twice as long. They are packed with interest, often only touching on the questions that we, as westerners with a very different perspective on development, may want to ask: are you really working in the big city? Do you really respect your company as much you say? And, admirably prompted by these programmes, why does family life appear so strong in your culture and rejected in ours?

Of all the countries, Vietnam perhaps has the best chance of making it through the next couple of years without too much pain as it is on the brink of development, with tourism playing a leading part. It appears to be a country that has the potential, yet has the roots, to steer itself through a different type of development.

Teacher notes are online only at present. The site is full of information but is not clearly designed and I well you know all the problems of Web site access. Assuming you have the necessary kit at your school, have the machine time available and can use a reliable printer, you'll not face any problems. One valuable bonus of Web site notes are the potential links available. This facility is used to the full and each of the programme note pages offer a range of links to other sites, some (on a cursory look only) more useful than others.

The video of Asia Pacific costs Pounds 19.99 (incl) from Channel 4 Schools, PO Box 100, Warwick CV34 6TZl Web site address:http:schools. channel4.comonline_resourcesnetnotesppapppanpnn_index.html

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