Irish teachers show great interest in development education issues. A significant proportion of teachers across a range of subject areas appreciate that there are opportunities for addressing development education themes in their classrooms (Gleeson et al 2007). These opportunities have also been identified by Irish Aid in their review of development education opportunities in senior cycle education (2007) and by the NCCA (the Irish National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) in their Intercultural Education Guidelines (2005 and 2006).
Despite the fact that the NGO sector produces a significant number of resources for schools, such resources are not as widely used as one would hope. Teachers identify that their most commonly used methodology for dealing with development education is the textbook (71.7% of teachers in the Gleeson et al study). Part of the issue here is that textbooks link directly to the syllabus and to what “needs to be covered”. Despite the opportunities for linking with the syllabus identified by the NCCA and Irish Aid, the same can often not be said for NGO generated resources. As a result, such resources are used, if at all, in the context of ‘Transition Year’ (the non academic year between the junior and senior cycles of secondary school) and are not mainstreamed into the life of the school.
When development issues are dealt with in school they are often illustrated by way of superficial snapshots or cases within a subject. As a result, the student learns about overpopulation by looking at Calcutta but never hears about Calcutta, or indeed, India again. By focusing in on a single aspect of life in one place, the developing world is presented as an exotic or different ‘other’, to which the student cannot relate (Duke 2003) and towards which the student feels no empathy (Tormey 2005). This could be addressed through a deeper engagement with a particular location across a subject or indeed a number of subjects. However, the content knowledge necessary to enable such a rich engagement with a location may well be missing among teachers.