Global Learning Programme

Development and the Sustainable Development Goals

The terms used when discussing development can alter the way we think about and approach the topic, they include: economic development, human development, international development and sustainable development. These varied understandings of development start from different assumptions, use different measures and result in different outcomes. Two of the most important approaches are economic development (the processes and policies by which a group improves its economic prosperity and individual standards of living) and human development (the goal of improving people’s quality of life and their ability to make choices).

What are the Sustainable Development Goals?

Among the most significant international efforts to reduce poverty in the global south has been the pursuit of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were reviewed in 2015. Progress has been mixed – while the number of people living on less than $1 a day globally has halved, much more work needs to be done, particularly to reduce chronic hunger and child mortality in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Earth's natural resources on which we all depend are in serious decline. The MDGs were replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, commonly known as the Global Goals (for Sustainable Development). These 17 goals were developed with wider consultation and have an increased focus on protecting the natural environment and reducing inequality. They establish ambitious targets applicable to every country in the world, which are to be achieved by 2030.

Teaching and learning about development touches on a wide range of topics: globalisation, human rights, conflict, gender, governance, education, health, environment, trade, aid, debt and international monetary systems. All of these are involved in helping to improve people’s lives and explaining why some people are better off than others. You could approach teaching about development through any of these topics and through pupils’ own experience of these.

World's Largest Lesson

TWLL Revised Logo Unicef

 Over the last two years thousands of students in over 100 countries have taken  part in the World’s Largest Lesson. Last year students were asked to consider the impact of their food choices on the SDGs, and in 2016 they were given a project to measure gender equality where they live.

You can access free resources that support both campaigns here:

These United Nations (UN) sources summarise the SDGs in different formats:

The following sources explore the SDGs in more detail, many in pupil-friendly format:

GLP-W presentation:

The Royal Geographical Society offers a graphic summary

Introducing the Goals

Experts inspire:

Comic introducing the global goals from TES

Schools talking

British Council SDGs site

CAFOD’s summary of the SDGs

World’s Largest Lesson/Global Goals resources

Case studies

Some GLP schools are already teaching about the SDGs:

Recommended reading

The following links and articles provide useful background information to help you teach about development:

Oxfam: ‘Experts Inspire’ film clips Eight development ‘experts’ say what they think the world should focus on for the post-2015 development goals

RGS: Ask the Expert: Victorine Olwanda  (Microfinance) Interview with an expert on microfinance in Kenya

Global Dimension: Technology Feature article exploring innovative uses of technology in LEDCs

80:20 Development in an Unequal World Publication exploring human development and human rights – website includes free extracts

Global Dimension: Answering international development questions from primary pupils Blog post and discussion reflecting on the challenge of answering complex questions

Guardian: Global development – Millennium Development Goals and The future of development Collections of news and comment articles

SOS Children’s Villages: Our Africa - Development Some perspectives on development in Africa, with film clips.