AS STUDENTS have a greater awareness of the world around them, more of the topical issues such as global climate change, racism and war should be taught in schools, according to a visiting UK academic.
University of Exeter Associate Professor Cathie Holden said it was possible for teachers to cover such topics within the curriculum as it was important to acknowledge the impact that the media had on making students more globally aware yet to ensure that they heard all sides of an issue.
Associate Professor Holden was the keynote speaker at the Global Education Professional Learning Conference at the University of Tasmania's Newnham campus yesterday, and spoke about her research into teaching controversial subjects in the classroom.
Her research focused on children aged 10, 11 and 14 in 11 countries on student concerns on issues in their community, as well as globally.
"What stands out is that kids think things like racism are going to improve, there will be less of it in other words, and on the whole they're optimistic in that there will be less poverty and there will be jobs, but what they're really worried about is environmental issues, as well as crime in their communities," Associate Professor Holden said.
She was surprised every time she interviewed children about their concerns. "I think what people maybe don't realise is what children are seeing through the media," she said.
"They will see things on the TV about conflict, or even in the street - they'll see homeless people in the street or they're aware of hearing their parents talk about maybe issues to do with jobs.
"So you can't just keep children isolated from it.
"They want to know and they're often quite concerned, and I think if we leave them worried and anxious, we do them a disservice."
Many teachers knew the issues were important but were unsure how to go about teaching them.
Her research has helped develop a framework that allows children to listen to each other, rather than it becoming a battle between what each might think.
Associate Professor Holden also looked at the possible concerns of parents, with the majority saying they were happy for such issues to be discussed as long as that happened in a balanced way.