Finding the humanity behind the statistics

20th May 2005 at 01:00
YOUNG LIVES, GLOBAL GOALS: CHILDREN, POVERTY AND THE UN MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS. Resource pack for geography, environmental studies and citizenship for 11 to 14 year-olds. Includes a supporting video and photocards. Save the Children. pound;22.50

Peter Brett reviews a resource pack that looks at the lives of poor children in less economically developed countries

More than 600 million children worldwide (one in four) live in absolute poverty. This resource pack, developed collaboratively by Save the Children, the Geographical Association and the Young Lives research project, aims to give this mind-numbing global statistic a human face.

Young Lives, Global Goals is an ambitious 15-year longitudinal study following the lives of 12,000 poor children in Vietnam, India, Ethiopia and Peru. The video and accompanying resource pack of activities feature eight of these children as individual case studies, two from each country.

The video is central to the potential success of the pack as a classroom resource. The poverty and sheer daily grind to secure the basic essentials of life are very apparent. But the pack is also keen to explore the similarities as well as the differences of life for children in less economically developed countries.

The hope invested in education by the young people and parents who are featured in the case studies makes for humbling watching. An excellent board game in the resource pack enables pupils to experience the political and practical challenges of achieving universal primary education. The video and the photocards will provide useful hooks to prompt initial discussion and debate.

Geography and citizenship teachers will choose to deploy the resources in different ways. The activities, linked to the eight individual stories, are strong on exploration of sustainable development, interdependence and gender differences in educational expectations.

The citizenship materials are good for empathetic activities which "consider other people's experiences", and for the promotion of group and class discussion. The comparative exercises are particularly helpful in terms of developing thinking skills - for example, how does poverty affect the children's lives and how are rural and urban areas different in the four countries?

Less strongly featured is the participative element of citizenship. The pack perhaps misses a trick by not linking to movements such as the Global Campaign for Education or Make Poverty History, which put more emphasis on what students can do to get involved in trying to bring pressure to bear on policy-makers.

At heart, however, the project clearly does have a strong "advocacy" dimension, seeking to "foster public concern about childhood poverty issues and the political motivation to act on them".

To this end the focus is on the Millenium Development Goals agreed in 2000.

In contributing to more in-depth global citizenship work in secondary schools, this thoughtful and well-conceived pack of resources might engender the necessary moral indignation among young people to make these goals a reality.

* Global Campaign for Education www.campaignforeducation.org www.makepovertyhistory.org

Peter Brett trains specialist citizenship teachers at St Martin's College, Carlisle, and is a part-time citizenship consultant with the DfES

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