21st February 2003 at 00:00
"Debt" can be the start-point for a range of stimulating geographical enquiries. With sufficient scaffolding this topic could be introduced at KS3 to help deliver the economic activity (PoS 6h) and development (PoS 6i) units. These themes are continued as part of most GCSE and A-level specifications.

For example, the pattern of home ownership and mortgage advances reveals significant features of the UK's social and economic geography. Data is readily available in "Regional Trends", which can be downloaded from (select more releasessearch releasessearch by title).

Geographers will want to expand this topic to the global scale and consider international debt. The origins of international debt in the oil price boom of the 1970s are examined in most GCSE textbooks and the issue of aid and debt is a standard theme of GCSE specifications. A web search on "Third World Debt" will return a large number of sites. Some provide statistical information while others offer up to date case studies, like Nestle dropping its recent claim for US$6m (pound;3.7m) against the Ethiopian government following a high profile campaign by anti-debt protestors. All of these sites require students to evaluate and to think critically about the information presented, as this is a value-laden topic.

Aspects of the national debt also present possibilities. The Government's statistics website (see above) provides details of the UK's balance of payments (select UK in the worldeconomybalance of payments). Our trade deficit challenges the concept of the "trade imbalance gap" between more and less economically developed countries and can lead to a greater understanding of global economic patterns.

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