Economically Developing Countries series: Brazil. By Anna Lewington and Edward Parker. China. By Julia Waterlow. India. By David Cumming. Egypt. By Alasdair Tenquist. Wayland Pounds 9.99.
Modern Industrial World series: Portugal. By Neil Champion. Canada. By David Marshall and Margot Richardson. Sweden. By Bo Kage Carlsson. Spain. By Neil Champion. Wayland Pounds 9.99.
Age range 11 - 14
The national curriculum framework has restored the study of places to school geography and ensured that countries at different levels of development will be taken into account.
These 48-page reference books for teachers and pupils at key stage 3 will be useful in providing accurate, balanced and colourful images of selected countries, "advanced" and "developing". In so doing they offer opportunities to question the whole concept of development looked at from the Euro-North American point of view. Is Spain with its army of unemployed people really more "advanced" than India? Should not development result in people having work? It will be a pity if the books are not used to trigger such fundamental discussions.
The books are written in a direct, clear style and are each divided into eight to 10 sections, broadly arranged in a chronological sequence. Illustrations are varied, generally well-chosen, complementary to the text and large enough to be examined in detail. One question: should all the photographs have been taken in fine weather? These convey excessively cheerful images of deprivation and of farming in which the sun always shines. There are some attractive, bold maps, tables of summarised facts and figures and numerous quotations from people, young and old, rich and poor, rural and urban, who live in each country.
It is pleasing to find the arts of some of the countries illustrated and discussed, and here, more might have been done. In Canada, for example, reference might have been made to the work of Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven (Harris, Lismer, MacDonald et al) whose landscape paintings have helped to establish the nation's identity.
Inevitably, place studies are also thematic; and these books give teachers many openings into the nine geographical themes identified by key stage 3 national curriculum regulations. For example, tectonic processes and earthquakes are mentioned in Portugal and India, river hazards and water management in China, Egypt and Spain; while different forms of agriculture and relationships between people and their natural environments are described throughout the series. There are opportunities to compare different types of industry, as for example sugar in Brazil and vehicle manufacture in Sweden.
Aspects of population increase and movement, urban growth and urban problems, transport and energy provision receive some treatment in each country. There are possibilities for linking place studies with the cross-curricular themes of health and citizenship education and economic and industrial understanding.
Historical sections introduce the readers to some important people and events responsible for bringing each country to its present state. The discussion of Spanish history is especially good, with a very fair treatment of the Franco years. Spanish society and geography cannot be understood without some knowledge of what it has meant to be Spanish in the past 75 years. In China, recent history is dealt with too kindly; Tibet remains a conquered nation and a Chinese colony. In Egypt the brief references to Islamic fundamentalism will need to be expanded, otherwise such intense conviction will remain incomprehensible to most British youngsters.
Each book ends with a glossary, responding to national curriculum exhortations to extend specialist vocabularies. In Spain, the definition of socialism is inadequate; some other definitions are insufficiently precise. Each book has an index and brief reference lists, including videos. Internet entries, such as the abundance available for Canada, might have been noted. The books are a good buy for school libraries. multiple copies of selected titles would support classwork, if they could be afforded. The series extends the range of countries available for study in the first three years of secondary school and offers constructive opportunities for developing cross-curricular links.
Patrick Bailey is senior university teacher at the University of Loughborough department of education