World citizens

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
We live in a world of shrinking distances, increasing information and fast-growing technology. As this process gathers pace, we become global citizens, whether we choose to recognise it or not. In secondary schools, geography has traditionally taught students about different places and different people. Increasingly today the emphasis is on interdependence, values, attitudes and issues. Now, explicitly in the new national curriculum, within geography and, from September 2002, central to the new citizenship programmes of study, teachers are required to explore the idea of global citizenship and the world as a global community.

Good geographers are constantly looking at what is happening globally to illustrate major geographical topics and themes, especially through the use of good case-study materials, in which practice explains theory. The study of citizenship will include developing enquiry and communication skills through studying, analysing and debating important topical political, spiritual, moral and social issues. Students are also expected to consider other people's experiences. The attainment target for both key stages 3 and 4 expects pupils to have a knowledge and understanding of the topical events they study.

The map shown here is based on a refugees hotspots map to be found in issue 11 of the magazine Global Eye, which is produced for the Department for International Development by Worldaware. The map introduces one of the major issues facing the world and its citizens, and is an issue that can be researched, used and debated as part of both geography and citizenship. War, persecution and "ethnic cleansing" (perhaps the most chilling phrase of recent years), all problems created by people, not the environment, are forcing more and more people away from their homes. Today more than 22 million people can be classed as refugees, displaced persons or returnees. Of these, 80 per cent are women and children. The problem of mass migrations is not new but, as the map shows, it affects almost every region of the world.

The map is a good introduction to the topic, whether as part of a unit of work in geography looking at population distribution and change (one of the themes at KS3), or as part of a toical debate in citizenship. Presenting the map to students should prompt a number of initial responses:

* the global extent of the refugee problem;

* the numbers involved;

* reasons for people fleeing their homes;

* differences between what is meant by the terms refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons and migrants.

Initial discussion should ensure that students are clear what the word refugee and other words mean, given the often inaccurate use of these terms, especially in recent months, and the rights that refugees have under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, signed by 136 countries.

Students, especially at KS3, could be divided into groups and asked to study and research named countries or regions. Such work is an ideal use of ICT, starting with initial research using the internet or CD-Roms on particular countries, for example:

* location (including map);

* size;

* population (including ethnic and religious divisions);

* development indicatorsdatafile; through to a more dedicated and focused search of refugee and news sites where students can discover, for example:

* why people have left their homes (causes);

* where they have settled (temporarily or permanently);

* their prospects for the future (returning home?);

* how they are being helped (to settle or return);

* the problems they face as individuals or groups (empathy).

Having built up their knowledge of a particular area, students can report back, present their findings to the rest of the class, and display the results of their work in the form of posters, leaflets and so on. However, this is only the starting point. Armed with accurate knowledge and information, students should now be in a better position to discuss the issues raised.

The primary activities described in Adrian Corke's article (right) could be adapted to help inform debate about the topic at secondary level, especially looking at refugee stories and the experiences of newcomers to the UK. One way to conclude such a debate would be to produce a list outlining the rights of every individual - a charter for global citizens.

Olly Phillipson is editor of 'Global Eye'

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