Ripe for development
DEVELOPING NAMIBIA. Case Studies. Resource Pack. Andy Buck, Vincent Bunce, Olly Phillipson and Claire Rohdie. Worldaware. Pounds 17.95. From Worldaware, 31-35 Kirby St London EC1N 8TE
The way geography is taught is changing almost as fast as the subject matter, Michael Storm discovers
Global Geography, an enterprising collaboration between the Geographical Association and a leading development education centre, is not a textbook. It is perhaps best described as a pedagogical handbook, bringing together the experience and insights of a group of Midlands-based authors, including six classroom teachers.
The book moves swiftly from theory to practice. Focusing on key stage 3, where geography remains a compulsory subject, the authors acknowledge that the national curriculum has confirmed and legitimised development as a focus for study.
Extracts from the key stage requirements then form the basis for a discussion of the nature of development education, an area wider than geography, which nevertheless is the principal conduit for the DevEd messages. As with environmental education, definitions of development education tend to be both elusive and unwieldy, with proponents insisting on its vast scope, and objectives never less than life-transforming. This can be unpalatable to the unconverted, and early chapters don't entirely avoid the admonitory tone that goes with evangelical zeal; there are several warnings about "doing a catastrophic disservice to pupils".
The theoretical opening chapters might leave the reader with the notion that development education is primarily about particular teaching styles, approved forms of classroom interaction, rather than content. But the national curriculum comes to the rescue here, with its clear identification of differences in development, spatial variation in the quality of life (however defined), and the interdependence of countries, as the central concerns of development education.
A useful chapter exploring definitions of the quality of life (locally and globally) is followed by seven pragmatic sections which provide a comprehensive overview of appropriate classroom strategies and resources.
There is a particularly interesting account of a Year 9 programme in which a thorough study of an individual country (Ghana) provides the context for exploring development issues. The contributor seems somewhat surprised by its impact - four months later, many parents mentioned that their child had really enjoyed this one-country study. She is also mildly defensive about the strategy: "studying a developing country is apparently 'traditional' geography". All this suggests that the allegation of "placelessness" in school geography, acknowledged elsewhere in this invaluable handbook, may have some substance.
The book ends with a checklist of contacts and resources. Future editions will need to include Worldaware's latest contribution to the lengthening list of photo-pack case-studies: 48 high-quality photocards (six copies of eight images) support 38 photocopiable sheets grouped into six topics.
One of these, of course, is mining, and DevEd wiseacres will no doubt look askance at the funding supplied by Rio Tinto Zinc for this publication, and perhaps find this sentence indigestible: "The mining sector has helped Namibia to develop more modern transport, health and education systems than many African countries, mainly as a result of export earning and foreign investment. "
It's a perspective that doesn't generally find a place in the conventional DevEd world view. But the increasing availability of this sort of area-based resource, with its fresh fieldwork flavour, will surely see countries re-emerging as the appropriate building-blocks for key stage 3 development education.