Thursday, February 11, 2010

Guest Blog: An example for high schools (and others) to follow

The following blog was contributed by: Gal Ben-Yair, Gali Shilo, Shir Adomi, Aviv Bronkhorst, Elad Argaman, Oxana Bardesky and Liad Kalush

My Brothers and Sisters in the Least Developed World is an educational program for affluent high school students, which strives to foster empathy and a profound understanding of the way in which the world is managed. It also seeks to foster students' willingness to act for the benefit of people living in the poor world (Richardson, 1979; Davies, 2006; Oxfam, 2006).

The persistent harsh reality in many developing countries poses the question: Do affluent high school students care about the state of the one-fifth of the global population that lives in absolute poverty and suffers from chronic malnutrition? Would they be more caring if they learned about it?

An educational study is currently seeking to address these questions. In the course of the study, 11th and 12th grade students are taught a curriculum that uses statistics and visual aids to describe the current situation. In addition, the curriculum also touches upon some of the global economic mechanisms that exacerbate the poverty of the least developed world.

At the end of the learning phase, the students are given the opportunity to voluntarily participate in a practical phase. This component of the course enables students to present the information they learned in order to promote awareness and to raise funds.

The Pilot Stage

During the school year (2008-2009), a pilot test was conducted with students of nine classes at four different high schools in Israel.

Of the 283 students who participated in the pilot stage, 114 (40% of the students) asked to participate in the practical phase. That means a rate of 40% voluntary participation – 40% of the young people were moved and outraged enough to decide not to stand aside.

The students who participate in the practical stage present a one-hour presentation to adults and peers in other classes. Their presentation consists of the three following sections:

A. A vivid description of the harsh conditions in which people in the poor world are living, underlined by statistics on the subject. They present among other things the number of people who are living on the purchasing power of $1.25 or less per day, the number of children and adults suffering from chronic malnutrition, the number of children who are forced into labor and the figures about child-trafficking;
B. A description of the three main global economic mechanisms currently exacerbating the poverty of people living in the least developed countries: Foreign debts, harmful trade, and a consistent erosion in the Official Development Assistance that the rich countries committed to in a U.N. resolution from 1970;
C. Presenting the audience with the question: Is our humanity today strong and wealthy enough to significantly improve the situation within two decades? The students then present the UN Millennium Development Program and its accurate figures, which prove its relatively low costs in comparison to the developed world's annual income.

As part of their awareness promoting activity, the students raise funds for two causes:

1. Finance children's nourishment through the World Food Programme;
2. Support children's schooling through UNICEF.

Here are links to essays written by two students describing their experience.
(1 and

Here you can see as well some photos of students during presentation.

One of the study's main goals is to develop a curriculum that will serve formal educational organizations in the affluent world. The U.N. emphasizes the need in these kinds of curricula (UNESCO, UNHCHR: World Programme for Human Rights Education – Plan of Action. 2006)

For more information please contact Liad Kalush whose idea the program was and who coordinates it.