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Global Investigation of Child Labor: Case Studies from India, Uganda, and the United States
Comprehensive Unit

Grade Level

Secondary - Community College

Published

2001 (170 pages)

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In this curriculum unit A Global Investigation of Child Labor, students gain a broader perspective on child labor and become more familiar with the issues, controversies, and debates that surround it. The three case studies highlighted in this curriculum-a street child in India, child soldiers in Uganda, and a migrant farmworker child in the United States-illustrate many complex aspects of child labor. Through these case studies, students will gain insight into different types of child labor, its causes, its consequences, and approaches to intervention. The case studies do not represent the most prevalent form of child labor in each particular country. Instead, they were chosen to illustrate three very different types of child labor that exist in the world.

As with many controversial topics of study, child labor is enormously complex. Scholars in the field may devote their entire careers to studying about a particular aspect of child labor, while a high school teacher might realistically have only a week or two to teach the topic. A Global Investigation of Child Labor is designed to introduce high school students to many of the key issues that have arisen in debates about child labor. As it is impossible to address every issue related to child labor in only three lessons, it is strongly recommended that you supplement the curriculum with further research and extension activities.

The lessons are constructed to provide frameworks of study, but the further research and extension activities listed at the end of Lesson Three can be easily added to any classroom situation. The Appendices contain a comprehensive list of additional resources to aid further study.

Lesson One, Understanding Child Labor, introduces students to the complexity of child labor through a series of activities and discussions that prepares students with some key concepts and basic knowledge. The lesson consists of four parts. The first part assesses students' prior knowledge of child labor. Students also investigate and discuss reasons why people work. The second part introduces students to a basic definition of child labor. They will also examine different situations in which children work so that they can begin to understand the difference between child employment and child labor, and the complexities that often surround this difference. The third part introduces students to the nine types of child labor that exist in the world, as defined by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Students will work in small groups to learn about a particular form of child labor. They will use images on transparencies to create an informative class slide show about child labor. The fourth part concludes the lesson with debriefing activities and discussions. A comprehensive Student Handout is distributed for homework reading and as preparation for the next lesson.

Lesson Two, The Complexity of Child Labor, focuses on the complexity of child labor and encourages students to think more deeply about the issues that surround it. In Part One, students will work cooperatively to teach a portion of the content reading using an interactive learning technique called the "jigsaw" method. In Part Two, students will remain in the same small groups to create a set of questions that will be used in a Team Quiz activity. Teams will compete against each other in a test of knowledge. Part Three concludes the lesson with debriefing discussions and independent writing assignments.

Lesson Three, A Closer Look at Child Labor: Case Studies from Around the World, allows students to explore issues through a case study approach. Three case studies-a street child in India, four child soldiers from Uganda, and a migrant farmworker child from the United States-provide a diversity of viewpoints from which students can gain a better understanding of child labor and how it impacts the lives of real children. To make this lesson as accessible as possible for students of varying abilities, the background handouts are provided in two different formats geared toward different ability levels.

Unit Goals

Each of the three lessons in this curriculum has specific learning objectives listed. These objectives have been divided into knowledge, attitude, and skill objectives for students. The following are larger goals for the curriculum unit as a whole:

  • To understand different reasons why people work
  • To learn the definition of "child labor" as defined by international law
  • To learn about some key issues of child labor discussions
  • To recognize the complexity of child labor
  • To learn some of the causes and contributing factors of child labor
  • To learn about different types of intervention
  • To draw parallels between different case studies from around the world, and to recognize the universality of some of these issues

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