Citizenship;Subject of the week;Development education

15th October 1999 at 01:00
Development education has been put firmly on the agenda, reports Brendan O'Malley

Margaret Thatcher once said there was no such thing as society. It's a measure of how far the political climate has changed that a pupil's place in the world is to be firmly embedded in the curriculum from 2000.

Valuing "diversity in society", providing a route to "sustainable development" and responding to the "continued globalisation of the economy and society", are to be key phrases in the rationale for the new curriculum.

The change has been backed by plans from the Department for International Development, led by Cabinet minister Clare Short. The plans include: a national audit of available materials, which will be put on the national information grid; a network of resource centres; professional training for teachers; wider inspection of development education in schools.

Since the change of government in 1997, funding for development education has quadrupled from pound;750,000 to pound;3 million.

According to DfID spokesman Richard Calvert, there has been a conscious change of policy, recognising that, for world poverty to be reduced, the UK needs to raise awareness and increase understanding of development issues.

"We are trying to take a leadership role in promoting development education," he says. "We are trying to embed global issues into the life and work of schools and other organisations such as businesses and unions."

Already schools are showing a thirst for the subject. As many as 600 now have links with a school in a developing country and up to 2,000 are interested in setting one up, according to the DFID.

This finding is echoed in a survey carried out by the Department for Environment and Transport's sustainable development panel. It found that school leavers are aware of the impact their behaviour can have on the world and the need to get involved in global issues.

DfID wants teacher training institutions to develop their own partnerships with colleges in developing countries to raise awareness among teachers.

Another idea which might take off is the type of mentoring scheme for student teachers being run by the World Studies Trust, with pound;250,000, mainly from the European Commission and the DfID. It aims to be operating in four schools of education this year, including Exeter, where it was piloted, and Leeds Metropolitan University.

Each university will work with 10 mentors and 10 students on teaching practice to find ways to get global perspectives into the curriculum, reaching 1,200 pupils in the first year.

The funding enables the trust to supply teaching cover, so that the student and mentor can take time out to be trained at the university department. "Children need to know how Britain links with other countries. Schools can't ignore it," says Cathie Holden, senior lecturer at Exeter's school of education.

For instance, one student in the pilot at Exeter was studying the Tudors and extended this to look at India in the reign of Akbah, a ruler contemporary with Elizabeth I, with whom England traded. She contrasted Akbah's religious tolerance with religious persecution in Britain.

Another moved from a study of Ancient Egypt to look at the impact of tourism there and in Devon. In a staff workshop she drew up a school policy for global education.

FACTFILE

* Pupils learn more about sustainable development issues from school than any other source * Half of all schools say they provide extra-curricular activities on sustainable development issues * More than half of all schools are linked to an aid agency or environmental group Source: Sustainable Development Education Awareness Action Panel survey

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