Written by Professor Richard Harris, Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol
Development and inequality are important topics to geographers, policy makers and to international organisations such as the World Bank, the United Nations, Oxfam and the International Red Star and Red Crescent Movement, amongst many others. Of course, the people for whom it matters most are those most affected - those who do not have the right to life, liberty and security of person that is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Within the subject content for GCSE geography, and under the theme of global economic development issues, students are asked to study the demographic, socio-economic, technological and political development of a poorer country or newly emerging country within respect to the wider political, social and environmental context within which the country is placed. Within the AS and A level content, patterns of human development and life expectancy can be studied as part of the Global systems and global governance theme. The theme is well suited to using quantitative information - data - to explore what is happening across the world. Data can challenge our misconceptions. For example, if often surprises people to learn that economic inequalities between countries are falling (it’s inequality within countries that is becoming a source of growing concern): see this post on the World Bank blog site.
Data provide evidence, and evidence forms knowledge. As part of the Data Skills in Geography Project we have developed a number of online teaching resources that include a discussion about inequality in the UK and about the influential book The Spirit Level. They also include a Short Introduction to Quantitative Geography in which we outline why working with real data is an important skill for geographers to learn.
This module makes use of the World Development Indicatorst provided by the World Bank. The data tables can be viewed at http://wdi.worldbank.org/tables, with graphical profiles for individual countries available at http://www.worldbank.org/en/country (select the country and then its data; Afghanistan is interesting).
An alternative and enjoyable way of viewing these and other data, as well as exploring changes over time, is through the Gapminder website, where you can view and download (for educational purposes) a film entitled Don’t Panic - How to End Poverty in 15 years, which is packed full of interesting facts and figures, and very creative ways of presenting the data.
This project was funded by the Nuffield Foundation, but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the Foundation
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