Young Children’s Engagement with Issues of Global Justice

Education for a Just World, is a new partnership initiative between Trocaire and the Centre for Human Rights and Citizenship Education, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, Dublin. The Partnership has conducted research into young children’s engagement with issues of global justice. The research approach taken was qualitative, informed by the ‘mosaic’ approach (Clark and Moss, 2001) and drawn from existing classroom practices.

The children in the study appeared able to identify other people’s needs, to consider what would happen if these needs were not met and on some occasions made direct links with poverty. The previous experience of children was an important factor in their engagement with ideas of poverty and need. In all settings, children had a pre-existing knowledge of Africa and had already made an association between Africa and the issue of poverty. Only in the senior infant setting did the children use the language of poverty and wealth.  For younger children it appears that there is a conceptual understanding of people not having enough but that use of terms such as “poor” and “rich” develops later.  This supports the findings of Ramsey (1990) that children have a limited understanding of the causes of poverty and also suggests that their understanding is an emerging one.

The research makes a contribution to education literature in a number of ways.  This is the first time research of this nature has taken place in the context of development education in an Irish context.  The findings are consistent with current post-structural theories of childhood which hold that children are capable of independent thinking, agency and can understand issues beyond their own self-interest. Most significantly, the research identified starting points which can inform development education programmes for young children on food and other global justice issues

For a full version of the research report go to: