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Looking globally: the future of education
Looking globally: the future of education

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2 Population growth

A crowd of people densely packed into an open space.
Figure 3 Are we in danger of having too many people for the resources to support?

‘It is not the number of people on the planet that is the issue – but the number of consumers and the scale and nature of their consumption,’ says David Satterthwaite, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London (Cumming, 2016).

He quotes Gandhi: ‘The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.’

While there used to be concerns about uncontrollable population growth there are now warnings that, globally, fertility rates are falling (Gallagher, 2020). This has been linked to higher rates of education in women and is leading to unpredictable social change.

Activity 3 Thinking about population growth

Timing: Allow approximately 45 minutes

In the previous activity you considered the changing populations of individual countries. You will now consider the bigger picture in terms of global population by reading two articles which review what a sustainable population is for our planet. This will help provide the context for considering the role of education in responding to the issues raised. Together, these two articles concern different ends of the spectrum of the issues raised by population growth.

Part A

  1. Read the BBC article How many people can our planet really support? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] to identify the answer to what a sustainable population might be and some of the factors to take into account.
  2. Make one short post to the working wall about EITHER: (a) The key issue(s) that education needs to concern itself with globally, given expected demographic changes? OR (b) An idea for a solution which you think the education system in a particular country can offer?

    Don’t forget to title your post EITHER ‘Global issue’ OR ‘Solution in [Country name]’.

Part B

Timing: Allow approximately 45 minutes

Read the article Policies to Address Population Growth Nationally and Internationally (Goodyear, 2008) in which a range of international population-related policies are summarised, not all of which focus on curbing growth. Issues around gender, food production and the role of education are raised.

Think about:

  • Do you agree that it is education’s role to mitigate some of the underlying issues and work for peace, reconciliation and/or sustainable living?
  • If it is not a role of an education system to respond to issues related to demographic change, whose role is it?
  • Does the education system you are familiar with include some reference to tackling issues of demographic change, possibly in its curriculum?