Two leading charities have been finding out how much students and teachers know about some of the major problems the world faces. Oxfam Hong Kong and Amnesty International surveyed the views of teachers and students in the territory about civic education. The Curriculum Development Council of the Education Department in July decided to introduce civic education as an independent subject for Forms One to Three. Concepts including 'global citizenship' will be taught at the upper secondary level, while issues of poverty, gender, ecology and food will be introduced to upper primary and secondary students. The Institute of Education, which is responsible for training teachers in Hong Kong, has announced it will strengthen civic education in its teacher training programme. The charities wanted to find out how much teachers and students understood about social justice, poverty and other issues. More than 900 Form Four and Form Six students from 15 secondary schools, and 222 secondary school teachers from more than 100 schools, responded. More than 86 per cent of the teachers and 77 per cent of students regarded global poverty as 'serious' or 'very serious'. Awareness of the problem was considerable, maybe because of media coverage and the work of aid agencies. A mere 30 per cent of students and only 16.3 per cent of teachers, on the other hand, thought poverty in Hong Kong to be serious or very serious. Most thought inadequate government policies were to blame for a country's poverty. Only 20 per cent of the students and 25 per cent of teachers considered the main cause to be the unequal distribution of global resources. Given these results, it seems many might blame the governments of poor countries, rather than those of the rich countries who control most of the world's resources. Many economists assume economic growth is an end in itself, automatically leading to a drop in poverty as wealth 'trickles down' to poorer people. But a spokesman for the charities said 70 per cent of teachers and students disagreed. More than 83 per cent of respondents thought economic growth was not more important than environmental protection. And only about 10 per cent thought economic growth was more important than protecting human rights. The findings showed respondents disagreed with putting economics first, the spokesman said. But while more than 80 per cent of students felt how acute the problem of poverty was, 40 per cent said they were not prepared to take part in solving the problem. Many said poverty was an inevitable social problem and they thought there was little individuals could do. Of those who were willing to do something, more than half preferred giving to agencies. Other popular forms of doing something positive included volunteering to do work for charities, voting in elections and taking part in school study groups. The survey found that 90 per cent of teachers and 83 per cent of students supported the charities' call for the inclusion of global issues in school curricula. More than 55 per cent of students and nearly 70 per cent of teachers backed the introduction of a new subject of civic education. The spokesman said the figure was surprisingly high, as the subject was thought to be seen as boring, particularly to students. Oxfam Hong Kong is an independent development and relief agency based in Hong Kong. It works with the poor regardless of race, sex, religion or politics, in their struggle against poverty, distress and suffering.