The Global Inequality exercise is designed to get students thinking about the distribution of population and wealth in the world. It gets the students out of their seats and provides a ready mental image to associate with global inequality. The key to making this activity a success is creating the right atmosphere! The kids must be relaxed and prepared to speak their mind. Reassure them that it's not a test and there is no right/wrong answer! The amount of English you can incorporate will depend on the level of your students. Continent and country names, large numbers and debating skills are all possibilities.
- A4 print-outs of the 7 continents
- A copy of the Population spreadsheet
- A copy of the Wealth spreadsheet
- One chair for each person taking part in the exercise
Start by telling the class that the classroom is the world, and the students represent the entire world population. Get them to tell you the world population and then use the Population spreadsheet to tell them how many million people they each represent! Introduce the six continents of the world (for this activity divided into: USA & Canada; Latin America; Europe; Africa; Asia; Oceania) and place an A4 sheet in six corners of the room to represent them. Ask the students to distribute themselves among the continents in what they imagine to be the correct proportions. This invariably leads to an overpopulation of the USA & Canada and and underpopulation of Asia. The key thing is to get the students discussing and arguing amongst themselves what they think the correct answer is. After a period of time ask the students if they are happy with their guess and then reveal the truth using the spreadsheet. Cue the "Eeeehh's!" of suprise! Rearrange the students into the correct proportions.
Next is the distribution of world wealth. Get the students to guess how much money there is in the world and then tell them the actual figure. Writing out such a huge number on the board makes a big impression, especially when using Japanese yen! Then introduce the same number of chairs as students (give or take - refer to the Wealth spreadsheet) to represent world wealth. Impress them by telling them how much one of their grotty school chairs is now worth! Again, ask the students to distribute the chairs among the continents as they see fit, all the while maintaining the correct proportions of population as established above. Again debate, discussion and even fighting over these ultra-valuable chairs is encouraged! After they have settled on an answer refer to the spreadsheet and tell them the awful truth. This usually involves taking chairs from Asia and giving them to the USA & Canada and/or Europe.
At the end of the activity the class is left with the memorable image of one or two lucky students in the USA & Canada luxuriating on their many chairs while the Africans and Asians are forced to fight for a place to sit, if they even have chairs at all.
For younger kids it is sometimes very effective to use individual wrapped chocolates instead of chairs. A chocolate is more connected with value in their minds than a chair! Just make sure that the JTE tells the kids they can't eat them until the very end of the exercise! It's up to your discretion whether or not you tell them to only eat the chocolates they were left with at the end of the exercise, or tell them to share them out equally with the whole class. Sometimes it's nice to tell them to be selfish and for them to decide organically by themselves that it would be nicer to share their unequal wealth with their classmates. Just make sure you inform the JTE which you will do beforehand.
You need both of these sheets to play the game. It's worth reading them thouroughly beforehand so you can pick out the right information quickly during the activity.
- World Population Sheet
- Updated Population Sheet using Google Search 20160217
- World Wealth Sheet
- Updated Wealth Sheet using UN data 2014
Print out the following on A4 and use them to demark the continents.
This site contains data for the world if it were represented by only 100 people. If you can do the maths, (i.e. for 25 students, dividing subsequent data by 4, etc.) then it is a useful resource for other data such as how many students in their classroom world would have fresh water, would be able to read, would have a university education, (1 out of 100, apparently, which may be difficult to represent in a class of 20 or 30...)