Teaching about global poverty and examining solutions to reduce poverty worldwide is essential to tackling an issue that affects millions around the world. By educating students on this vitally important global issue, teachers can play a major part in nurturing change-makers who will help combat poverty in the next decade.
Reducing global poverty is the first of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). While global poverty rates have been halved since the turn of the century, almost 800 million people still live below the international poverty line today. It’s a huge, life-endangering issue that we can only address through large-scale changes to society as a whole.
Those changes can start in today’s classrooms. Educators can inform and inspire the next generation of global leaders, who can begin to tackle poverty and help the United Nations meet its targets for this SDG by the intended date of 2030.
Let’s first take a look at why poverty should be a key subject for your students.
Why is it important to teach global poverty?
A staggering 1 in 10 people across the world lives in poverty. While a large number of those 800 million live in the regions of Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, poverty can also be felt close to home regardless of where you live.
In fact, a 2018 report by the United States Census Bureau found that almost 40 million American citizens are living in poverty in the US today. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 21 percent of all children in the US—that’s 15 million children—live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold.
This makes poverty an extremely relevant subject for discussion in the classroom. Not only is it something that affects people in countries in the Global South—it is also an issue close to some of your own students’ lives.
How can educators integrate this Sustainable Development Goal into their teaching?
Let’s look at ways in which teachers can use the SDG of Zero Poverty in the classroom to create action- and inquiry-based learning opportunities for students.
Educators who teach about the impacts of poverty help to spread awareness about the state of poverty around the world. The focus of this learning might explore the past and present of poverty, including its historic causes and how it shows up around the world in 2019. Some of the topics that could be discussed include:
- The economic and societal causes of poverty
- The impacts of living in poverty, such as malnutrition and limited access to education
- What poverty looks like around the world
- The connection between poverty and migration crises around the world
- How poverty is defined on a national and international level
- How poverty-stricken communities are often marginalized and victims of social discrimination
- How natural disasters—such as the major hurricanes in the US and Caribbean in 2017—can lead to huge economic losses that devastate communities
Next, educators could invite students to think about ways to address poverty through social, education and economic policy. Lessons could include an exploration of the following:
- How inclusivity and equality are essential in any job market
- How to provide equitable access to quality education to help people emerge from poverty
- How social safety nets can help reduce poverty
- The importance of sound policy frameworks—at national and international levels—to support poverty-eradication initiatives
- The economic and social factors around the minimum wage and other pay gaps
- How microfinance can help those who lack access to traditional banking solutions
Allowing students to explore these issues will expand their knowledge of social systems in the US and across the globe, and to think creatively about solutions to poverty at home and beyond. Students will engage in perspective-taking and gain empathy for poverty-stricken communities, thus developing two key global competencies that are essential to global leadership.
Global leadership can help with the eradication of poverty
One of the areas that this SDG will highlight for students is the inequalities that exist in communities around the world—and also in the US. Poverty and social injustice are closely linked, and in many cases, one is the cause of the other. Any time educators bring the SDGs into their classrooms, they are inviting students to be problem solvers who will be poised to address the issue of poverty in their own community and beyond. This is how teachers can nurture global leaders.
Global leadership is an awareness of the challenges faced by the wider world and other communities and is essential to a student’s development. Global leaders consistently broaden their minds by considering others outside of their immediate experiences, social circles, and communities. They learn from others’ solutions to global issues. Finally, when students who are developing as global leaders learn about the challenges that the SDGs represent for all of us across the globe, they see that they too have the power to enact positive change in the world.
Download our global leader infographic to inform, inspire, and empower students on taking the first steps toward reducing poverty.