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Who Wants To Be a Billionaire?

22 October 2015

That’s the question Year 9 Geography students have been grappling with this term, and it might not be as easy to answer as you think!

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As part of their investigation of the impact of trade on the distribution of wealth throughout the world, the students have played the The Trading Game, learning through experience how a country’s wealth, resources and access to manufacturing technology impact on its ability to grow its wealth.

Students began by looking at the gap between rich and poor countries, investigating how it is possible to measure development through indicators such as the Gross National Product (GNP), adult literacy, child mortality and sanitation. They explored the distribution of wealth around the world, and then the game began.

“Through this game, we challenge the students with the basic question: How does trade reinforce global patterns of inequality?” Ms Jane Kilpatrick, Head of Humanities and Year 9 teacher explains.

The students were placed in three groups of countries: Rich, Middle Wealth, Poor. The rich countries had lots of currency (in this case NAIS Pudong banknotes featuring the portrait of Principal Mrs Wallace), not a lot of natural resources (coloured paper) but lots of access to manufacturing technology (staplers, protractors, rulers). Middle countries had lots of coloured paper, a small amount of money and a pencil, while the poor countries had varying amounts of paper (resources) but nothing else. One student acted as the bank, and trading on the “world market” began.

Ms Kilpatrick continues, “The students soon became aware of the limitations of having lots of resources, but nothing with which to manufacture the shapes that were in demand on the world market. It’s the dilemma that poor nations across the globe face: they have resources to sell, but can’t value-add them without the manufacturing technology.”

There were definitely highs and lows, with some of the poor nations becoming disillusioned at their lack of ability to improve their position, as well as gluts on the market driving down the price of the resources. Finally, not surprisingly, it was the rich countries which prevailed, amassing a huge amount of both money and resources.

By learning through doing, the students have gained a deeper understanding of the topic. Ms Kilpatrick concludes, “When you have young people screaming ‘But that’s not fair!’ you really see they not only understand it, they feel it!”