Policy & Practice - A Development Education Review



80-20: Development in an Unequal World (7th Edition)

Development Education Perspectives on Migration
Spring 2017

Thomas Spratt

Tony Daly, Ciara Regan and Colm Regan (eds.) (2016) 80-20: Development in an Unequal World, 7th edition, Bray: 80:20, Educating and Acting for a Better World and New Internationalist.

To a student teacher, picking up a high quality resource provides confidence that capturing the imaginations of their pupils is possible and the seventh edition of 80-20 certainly falls into this category.  The book investigates inequalities and injustices in a manner that is accessible to a non-specialist in the area of international development.  It offers a relevant and interesting context to all of the topics considered in this text, which is interspersed with facts, figures, cartoons and high quality images.

80-20: Development in an Unequal World is written by a worldwide group of authors and educationalists.  The foreword by Senator Patrick Dodson, an Aboriginal leader, urges the reader to recognise and recover the fundamental principles of respect for the diversity and richness of various cultures worldwide with a view to improving people’s understanding of our shared humanity.  This introduction emboldens the reader and educator to use the book as a tool to enthuse future generations about topics such as human development, sustainability, justice, women’s rights, international inequality, aid, education and ideas for positive social change.  The book provides in-depth analysis of all these areas combined with very satisfying visual representations of the points being made that will benefit teachers and learners.

For an educator in training the book is something that you can dip into or read from cover to cover because of its flexibility to support research, course delivery or classroom practice. The authors provide a framework of key concepts, appropriate and recent statistics, and sharp insights that enlighten, kindle and inspire action.  Usefully, the book provides a wealth of onward referencing with suggested further reading, websites and areas for research. Therefore, from a teacher’s perspective the resource is a sound starting point for embarking on lessons focused on the aforementioned areas.

The book does not have a specified set of aims or objectives but the editors advise readers that the resource can be considered a break from the prevailing 24-hour news cycles and hardening public indifference to images of suffering and injustice. The resource aims to inform movement and encourage momentum toward justice, equality and sustainability. 80-20: Development in an Unequal World is offered as an exploration of the most central global issues and debates of our time that educators are urged to introduce into the classroom and as well as informal learning settings.  The book endeavours to provide up-to-date data on pressing topics that have dominated the media’s agenda of late but with more context, analysis and deeper learning. For example, Chapter Ten on ‘migration’ challenges popular myths and half-truths with hard data and facts.  This approach has become increasingly relevant within the context of the popular discourse of ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘the post truth era’. 

80-20: Development in an Unequal World is suitable for upper-secondary school and post-sixteen year olds, exploring issues within Geography, Economics and Global Citizenship. In Northern Ireland, the book will be particularly useful for teaching Global Citizenship and, at ‘A Level’ it will enhance the teaching of ‘Geographies of Economic Development and Aid’.  For example, Chapter Fourteen titled ‘Debating Aid - Movement Beyond a Pantomime’, provides an interesting stimulus for understanding the motives behind aid and its effectiveness, impact and value in development terms.

However, 80-20’s use should not be limited to the upper-secondary school; at Key Stage Three (KS3) (12-15 years) the visual elements could provide useful stimuli for lessons on development and environmental issues.  For example, the chapter on climate change provides an ‘Atlas of Pollution’ comparing the carbon dioxide emissions of different countries. The topic of climate change is widely taught at KS3 throughout Northern Ireland and use of this resource would help pupils understand how climate change and human development issues are intertwined.

80-20, however, is not written as a textbook that adheres to any particular examination board’s specifications; the chapters can be used as ‘stand-alone’ pieces on specific aspects of development. Therefore, the book’s strongest use within a school setting could be as a supplementary reference resource for students and teachers.

A particularly interesting chapter that will capture the imagination of pupils is ‘Food is Power’, which develops our understanding of how food has been used as a weapon of war.  The chapter is introduced in a contemporary context, which is followed-up with a vividly described timeline of scorched earth tactics dating back to the Persian Empire and brought up-to-date with reference to food supply issues during the Israel-Palestine conflict.  The chapter provides an interesting stimulus for discussion on what can be done to help those caught up in conflicts.

An area of development that is absent from the book is Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues. When the United Nations decided to produce a set of global goals to end poverty and inequality by 2030, equality groups pushed for the rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans-gender people to be taken into account. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were agreed in 2015 and endorsed by 193 governments on the basis that they apply to everybody, everywhere and will ‘leave no one behind’.  This attitude is especially important for LGBT people, who have been continually left behind by development initiatives. Discriminatory laws, projects that fail to acknowledge their specific needs and harmful social attitudes have all come together to hold LGBT people back. The effects of this are felt by LGBT people in all parts of the world and are manifested in lower incomes, deteriorating health, and less education, among other factors. Poverty as a whole will never truly be eradicated until this problem is directly addressed and it is important, therefore, that LGBT issues are more openly discussed in classrooms to make pupils aware that discrimination has wider implications than they may know.

The book is particularly well suited to Geography teachers in providing information and perspectives that help develop pupils’ critical thinking skills.  The topics covered encompass a wide range of perspectives to challenge dominant thinking among governments and decision-makers on global justice and development issues.  Use of the information provided will undoubtedly inform classroom debates and provide students with rich opportunities to deepen their understanding of complex development challenges.  The resource will also enable learners to understand the role they can play in combatting the causes and consequences of global inequality.


Thomas Spratt is a Geography Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) student at Ulster University (Coleraine).  He is a post-graduate with a Masters in Environmental Engineering. Since leaving university he has worked in the utility industry for five years before deciding to make a career move into the teaching profession.

Spratt, T (2017) ‘80-20: Development in an Unequal World (7th Edition)’, Policy and Practice: A Development Education Review, Vol. 24, Spring, pp. 177-180