Exploring injustice using key equations & relationships – a geographers’ workshop

The Geography Syllabi at Junior and Senior Levels, Post-Primary have strong strands on development issues and the AGTI has undertaken many workshops on the subject over the years. The specific area of focus was Aid, Trade and Sustainable Development and the brief was to help update teachers on the issues and the appropriate resources available.


120 Geography teachers at the Association of Geography Teachers Ireland (AGTI) Annual Conference 2012


October 12th, 2012
1.5 hours
2-3 hours

3 Big Ideas

The activity used 3 key equations – 80:20; 5:50:500 and 32:1 to explore the chosen topics. These equations have been developed by 80:20 and we have used them regularly as focal or stimulus resources on the issues.

  • There are a number of simple equations that illustrate/highlight the core character and nature of structural injustice worldwide today and they can be very effective teaching tools
  • These equations place primary emphasis on the relationships between rich and poor worldwide
  • They can be approached and analysed at a variety of different levels depending on the nature of the audience


  • Flipchart or poster paper so that all can see
  • A hand-out with the key equations for each individual
  • Appropriate reference material e.g. an annotated guide to sources for backup materials and analyses
  • Annotating the materials is very useful as it references the different strengths of resources and their immediate usefulness.


  • An initial activity focuses on the 80:20 equation, what does it mean to you, how might it be useful in Geography teaching, what are its strengths/weaknesses as an ‘entry point’ in your mind etc.? The main ideas here is to get participants discussing the issues and the relationships behind them. It also provides the workshop facilitator with valuable information about the group – information that can be used later.
  • The stimulus sheets from 5:50:500 have never failed to generate individual and group responses – in the case of geographers those on population, environment, trade etc. are immediately appropriate. Ensuring that participants get individual copies for future group work is important.
  • Despite knowing intuitively that trade and financial relations are hugely unjust, teachers still require adequate references to the sources of information behind the 5:50:500 equation and providing these via the OECD Development Assistance Committee and the Real Aid Report site is important as is introducing them to the Reports of the UN Secretary General re resource flows.
  • Providing practical, simple and complex activities for using the materials is also important and encouraging teachers to develop their own activities to suit their own class groups adds considerable value.
  • One of the most important points to remember relates to knowing the format and context of ‘exam’ questions on the subject – a lot of DE materials are long on narrative and opinion and short on ‘right and wrong’ answers. This makes it hard for students to score high marks putting many teachers off ‘doing development’. Giving examples of analysis with a ‘right/wrong’ approach alongside narratives etc. is important to encourage take up.
  • Providing a details, annotated but appropriately short reference list is crucial to the take up.

Case Study: introducing sustainable development

To introduce and animate the discussion on sustainable development (as requested by the AGTI), it proved useful to focus on the 32:1 equation. This equation immediately goes to the heart of the matter and when copies of geographer Jared Diamond’s New York Times article on the subject is introduced and distributed and geography teachers have a number of ready-made classes to hand. It is possible using these resources to very quickly get to the core of discussions and debates on sustainable development in a matter of some 30 minutes via individual and group discussion. A sample activity is to invite participants to read Diamond’s article, discuss it in pairs or 4’s and choose one key point to share more broadly. In this way, the key points can be accumulated quite quickly to stimulate debate.

The activity can be further extended through using the ‘Environmental Tipping Points’ stimulus sheet from 5:50:500 (free to download) to introduce some of the key issues addressed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (https://ipcc.ch). Again, it is of considerable value to have prepared a summary of their major points and arguments from their Policy Makers Summary.

The workshop can also be further animated through the use of the sustainable development videos included on the DVD accompanying 80:20 Development in An Unequal World 6th edition.

Additional material (especially on ecological foot printing by region, an excellent topic for student research work) is available on https://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/national_assessments

Project Learning

In association with Concern Worldwide and the AGTI, we had also produced a resource on world hunger entitled Living in the Hollow of Plenty which was available to participants along with an updated world hunger map which is also available online at developmenteducation.ie/issues-and-topics/hunger-map Working in partnership with the AGTI and Concern before the workshop added huge value to its impact and made the most of the time and access available to us.

It’s a cliché but providing teachers with updated and accurate resource lists annotated reinforces interest and maximises potential impact and follow-on.

The main challenge is, as ever, getting beyond the restrictions imposed on the subject by the prescribed syllabus but encouraging participants to extend the official approach a little further through providing practical and workable examples does seem to work.

Measuring Impact

We measured success as follows:

  • Extension of the time allotted at the request of participants
  • The number of post workshop contacts that arose for additional information
  • Invitation to conduct similar workshop in Cork subsequently
  • Demand for the online hunger resource has been very considerable and the downloads measurable (the printed version has had to be reprinted – thanks to Concern for this
  • Interest and, indeed sales, of resources at the conference and subsequently as we offered a special discount to AGTI members

We feel we reached our goals in satisfying the requests from the AGTI to assist their members in updating themselves information, analysis and resource-wise on the issues chosen by AGTI for the conference.

Other Information

The Senior Cycle Geography Syllabus has the most extended discussion of development issues in the post-primary curriculum but is poorly served by the DE sector.