A few things an informed ESL teacher should know about the ‘Third World’

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As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, you may decide to work as a volunteer ESL teacher. Since practically all voluntary organizations work in ‘Third World’ countries, it would be most appropriate for an ESL teacher to have some knowledge about what being a third world country means.

As a starting point, it is important that the ESL teacher understands what is meant by the term the ‘Third World’:  The developing countries of Asia, Africa, Oceana, and Latin America constitute the ‘Third World’. In contrast, the capitalist countries of Western Europe, North America, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand constitute the ‘First World’, and the former Eastern bloc countries of the USSR (Russia) and Russia constitute the ‘Second World’. Here are twenty characteristics that generally apply to most Third World countries, and which an informed ESL teacher should be familiar with (all figures are approximate).

  1. Low life expectancy is encountered in these countries due to the lack of money allocated to health services, and because people have less access to quality medical care.
  2. Low standards of education.
  3. Poor health care. Over 11 million children die each year from illnesses such as malaria, diarrhoea, and pneumonia.
  4. Unemployment.
  5. Poor nutrition. 824 million people go hungry or have a very limited food supply while an additional 500 million suffer from serious malnutrition.
  6. A lack of clean drinking water. In excess of one billion people do not have proper access to clean drinking water: 400 million of which are children.
  7. Overpopulation.
  8. Poverty. About one in four people have no means to live on, and millions of people live on less than $1 a day.
  9. Economic dependence on more developed countries.
  10. Their economies are devoted to producing primary goods for the developed world whilst providing markets for finished goods manufactured in the developed world.
  11. The ruling elites of most of these countries are extremely wealthy.
  12. Corruption is endemic in a lot of these countries.
  13. Control of major economic activities such as mining and cultivation is often retained by foreign firms.
  14. The price of their goods is often determined by the developed countries.
  15. Trade with developed countries is practically the only source of income.
  16. Human rights are less protected.
  17. A total lack or inadequate national electricity grid. 1.6 billion people live without electricity in these countries.
  18. Although some of these countries, such as Venezuela and Nigeria, are rich in natural resources: very little benefit is felt by the ordinary people.
  19. These countries are often ruled by dictatorial regimes or corrupt ‘democratically elected governments.
  20. HIV/AIDS is a serious problem in some of these countries: especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

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