New report on pupils’ attitudes to & conceptions of poverty. 

Forming part of a series published by ANGEL partner the Development Education Research Centre (DERC), a new report titled "Primary pupils’ attitudes towards and understandings of poverty" has been published. Authored by Helen Lawson of the UCL Institute of Education, the aim of the research was to collect primary school pupils’ perceptions of, and their views on learning about, poverty and development, in order to better understand the factors that influence and impact on their knowledge,
understanding and perspectives.

The main research questions were:

  1. How do young people conceptualise and make sense of global poverty?
  2. How do young people think they can respond to global poverty?
  3. In what contexts do young people think they learn about global poverty?

The research found that:

  • The meaning of poverty for pupils is very similar across schools, and across year groups. Pupils characterise poverty as lack of basic needs: money, shelter, education and access to resources. Natural disasters were also frequently cited as a cause of poverty.
  • The complexity of the definition offered does not seem to be age related but linked to the local context of the school.
  • The causes of poverty are seen as being internal to countries. Causes of poverty include war, famine and natural disasters. Pupils consider people to be poor due to lack of money and access to basic needs, such as food, water and shelter. These ideas were explicitly underpinned by a charity mentality by a number of pupils, reinforced by the belief that people are poor due to natural disasters.
  • There is also evidence in this focus group of pupils feeling outrage at the inequality between rich and poor.
  • Pupil comments highlight the way in which pupils develop a back story to the image in order to support their views of why this image represents poverty, such as not having any parents, having to work hard to achieve things that ‘we’ take for granted, and not having enough food.
  • For the majority of pupils, taking action is strongly associated with charitable giving.


ANGEL Network,
Development Education Research Centre (DERC)
UCL Institute of Education
LIDC Building, 36 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PD

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