By Gayle Nelson
Volume 15 Number 5
"Development. . .is for each and all the transition from less human conditions to those which are more human."
There is a challenge inherent in teaching children about the reality of life in third world countries. The realization that other people live in circumstances of daily suffering and deprivation can be extremely frightening to adults and more so for children. But learning about other people, their lives and their often courageous struggles to create a better world can lead to a critical awareness of connection with other human beings. It can allow children to experience personal empowerment and a positive connection of shared concern.
These feelings evolve from increased understanding of other cultures and of basic concepts of development. Facilitating the growth of such understanding is one of the goals of a small nonprofit development education centre in Victoria B.C..
VIDEA is the Victoria International Development Education Association. From their small crowded downtown office comes a commitment to provide people of all ages with a variety of opportunities to learn about people and countries in the third world and about the global context of the relationship Canadians have with them. Viewing cultural difference in the context of international political and economic structures, and examining the resulting relationships is where development education extends beyond the cultural tolerance and appreciation promoted by multiculturalism and interculturalism. Development education in this context also serves to promote an awareness of the need for political responsibility and allows informed critical observation of international action and policy decisions.
Since its formation in 1977, VIDEA has continued to expand the services it offers to the local community. At present they offer an up-to-date resource centre of books and periodicals providing in depth coverage of development issues and methods of teaching development; a speaker's bureau to connect schools and public groups with individuals willing to speak on their personal overseas working and living experiences; public workshops; audio-visual material and courses on development issues; a monthly newsletter; and a monthly calendar of international events.
VIDEA also produces, publishes and markets curriculum material for use at intermediate (grades 5-8) and senior secondary levels. Seven intermediate texts on specific countries are supplemented by slidetapes or videos. These kits are designed to break down stereotypes and create a feeling of empathy with the concerns of people in developing countries. Information is given on all aspects of life in the country. The geography, climate, economy, culture, and customs of the countries are presented in personalized and anecdotal form to allow young children to gain a feeling of other lifestyles and increase awareness of cultural and geographic diversity. The striking, colourful imagery of the slides and videos sets the information from the texts to music and narration allowing children to see real people interacting in real settings very different from their own.
At the senior secondary level the issues of development are presented from a different perspective. Two slide-tapes with selfexplanatory titles, "Why Should I Care?" and "What Can I Do?" address development issues and concerns more directly. These slides tapes stress that personal empowerment can result from increased understanding of the process and problems of international development. Discussion of issues is personalized, delivered from the point of view of young people living in the third world.
Five separate grade 11 kits provide analytical readings compiled on issues of food, urbanization, population, environment, and economics. These kits can be used by both teachers and students as tools for issue debates and discussion. The information can foster realization of imbalances in distribution of the world's wealth and power, an appreciation of class structures, and respect for disadvantaged peoples' attempts to improve their living conditions. VIDEA also produces an illustrated eight page issues-oriented newsletter for Grade 11 teachers on development and development education. This "Teachergram" consists of four pages of analytical background information, three pages of classroom activities based on this information and a page of resources appropriate to the teaching of each treated topic.
There are many views of what development education is, and what it should do. A United Nations definition states that it seeks
VIDEA's approach to these objectives attempts to make the education component as comprehensive as possible. This is done by making all aspects of development available for examination and analysis. VIDEA's resources encompass a variety of instructional approaches including direct information services, country-focused packages, issue-oriented reading kits, and audio-visuals. Catering to the needs of many groups to learn act, become involved in solidarity work, and understand our own personal and planetary connections with the people of the less developed countries, VIDEA continues to evolve in a dynamic way.
VIDEA material is available across Canada at many development learner centres through provincial Departments of Education, and through many university education libraries.
For further information on VlDEA's programs and services write to VIDEA, #407 620 View St., Victoria B.C., V8T 3C3. (604) 385-2333.
For a review of the VIDEA text India, see page 196.
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