Global Education

Teacher resources to encourage a global
perspective across the curriculum


Year level: 5-6

Issue: Refugees

Country: Myanmar, Thailand

Case studies: Myanmar refugees

Students develop an understanding of situations which cause people to flee their homes, the rights of the people that are forced to flee, and the processes that protect and support these people.

To minimise environmental impact, Myanmar refugees construct and repair their houses with materials provided by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium.

To minimise environmental impact, Myanmar refugees construct and repair their houses with materials provided by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium. Photo from Act for Peace

Interdependence and globalisation, Peace building and conflict resolution, Social justice and human rights

Teachers need to take care when using these materials. Students who have had traumatic experiences may find some of these activities disturbing.

Australian Curriculum links

Learning areas


Year 6

Compare texts including media texts that represent ideas and events in different ways, explaining the effects of the different approaches (ACELY1708)


Year 6

Global population, wealth and health is unevenly distributed

General capabilities

  • Literacy
  • Numeracy
  • Ethical behaviour
  • Intercultural understanding

Cross-curriculum priorities

  • Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia 

Activity 1: Experience flight

Students develop an awareness of the needs of refugees by imagining an experience of being forced to leave home to seek safety.

Reflect on a time when you packed up to leave (eg going on a holiday, moving house). What did you take? How long did it take to get ready to leave?

Imagine you have to leave home in a hurry in fear, the roads are blocked and you cannot use your phone or electricity.

  • What will take? (Remember: you have a short time to pack, you will have to carry your bag and there may be few other resources to help you until you reach safety.)
  • Where will you go?
  • How will you travel?

Use current news reports from a conflict area to expand your ideas.

Develop four mind maps showing how being forced to leave home in a hurry would affect your:

  • health
  • safety
  • family
  • future.

List the support you might need. Where would you get that support and how easy would it be to obtain?

Discuss how likely you might be to receive the required support if you lived in a different country or belonged to a minority group.

Write a diary, collect some photos or make drawings with short statements describing the experience of leaving home in fear to escape conflict and travelling to a place of safety.

Write a reflection on the experience and list three ways you might change your behaviour when you hear of refugee stories in the media in the future.

Activity 2: Protecting the rights of refugees

Students examine the definition of refugees and research current events that highlight refugee issues.

Brainstorm words you associate with 'refugees'.

Compare your lists in a small group and write a definition of the word ‘refugee’.

Contrast your definition of refugee with the UN Refugee Convention definition in the Introduction to the Refugees global issue.

Examine the definitions of asylum seekers, internally displaced people and other ‘people of concern’ to the United Nations, using information in the Introduction to the Refugees global issue.

Collect television, newspaper or radio news items which mention refugees and asylum seekers.

Discuss in small groups:

  • Is the word refugee always accurately applied? Why or why not?
  • How is the protection of refugees presented?
  • How are the rights of refugees being protected?

Survey ten people from varying backgrounds about their attitudes to the care offered to refugees in Australia, and the care offered to Australians who have been forced to leave their homes because of natural disasters.

Present your findings and suggest reasons for differences of opinion.

Activity 3: Life in a refugee camp

Students analyse life in a refugee camp as a way of addressing the needs of refugees.

Gain an insight into life in a refugee camp using resources such as 'Anatomy of a refugee camp'.

Outline the needs of refugees and how they are addressed.

Develop a 'life in a day of a refugee child' timeline with descriptions or drawings.

Imagine you are in charge of a refugee camp with about 1,000 people. Use the following as minimum requirements to determine the resources and personnel needed to provide for the refugees (Source: Sphere Project):

  • 15 litres of water (per person per day)
  • 2,100 calories of food (per person per day) 
  • 1 toilet for 20 people
  • a maximum walking distance of 50 minutes from shelter
  • 1 tent or plastic sheeting for a family of 5
  • immunisation against measles
  • education.

Outline how goods will be transported to your camp 90 kilometres from the nearest town, accessed on a dirt road through hostile territory.

Discuss in small groups, with people in each group taking on the following roles – local government officials, water specialists, food specialists, healthcare specialists and community leaders:

  • where to locate the refugee camp
  • how to distribute resources if there is a shortage
  • how to cope with the sudden influx or departure of people
  • how to make sure those most vulnerable (women, children, the disabled, aged) are safe
  • how to help people take control of their own lives as much as possible so they do not become dependent (eg grow own food, earn an income, continue education).

Compare your conclusions with other groups.

Activity 4: Statistics about refugees around the world

Students examine and interpret statistics about refugee numbers and explore the accuracy of common statements about refugees.


  • blank world map.

Predict which countries play the biggest part in caring for refugees. (Suggest at least three.) What differences might there be between developed and developing countries? Why?

Examine the figures in the following table to find out which fourteen countries in the world support the largest refugee populations, and how Australia compares with these.

Table 1: Numbers of refugees
World ranking by total number of refugeesCountryRefugeesNational wealth (GDP): $US per capita
(2013 est.)
Number of refugees per $1 GDP per capita (ie compared to national wealth)Ranking of countries in table by number of refugees per $1 GDP per capita
(1,616,507 ÷ 3100)

UNHCR Global trends 2013
CIA World Factbook 

Show the total numbers of refugees for these 10 countries as a column graph on a blank world map.

Complete the remaining columns of the table above:

  • To calculate the figures for column 5, divide column 3 by column 4. This has been done for you for Pakistan. 
  • In column 6, rank the countries in the table from 1 to 10 according to the figures in column 5.
  • To find out which countries are in the top 10 in the world when ranked in this way, see the graph UNHCR Global trends 2013.


  • What do you notice about the different rankings in your completed table. What might this tell you about how statistics can be interpreted?
  • What other ways of describing numbers of refugees could be used? For example, you might show them as a percentage of total population. What additional data and calculations would you need? 
  • Which way of describing refugee numbers do you think is the most accurate and meaningful?

Review what impression these figures have on your perceptions of refugee issues.

Collect statements referring to refugees from media sources and use the collected statistics to evaluate their accuracy.


  • Why general statements might use statistics inaccurately?
  • Why accurate statistics on 'people of concern' populations are important?


Create a true/false quiz that provides an explanation of answers with referenced support from recognised humanitarian organisations.

Activity 5: Myanmar refugees

Students learn about life in a refugee camp, and resettlement in Australia with a program assisting refugees to rebuild their lives.

Read the Myanmar refugees case study.

Describe why Myanmar ethnic groups have been forced to flee from their homes and where they find shelter.

Examine a recent map of refugee camps along the Thailand–Myanmar border from The Border Consortium. Describe and discuss the distribution of camps along the border.

Calculate and measure the amount of food an adult would have to eat in one day.

Compare this to the food you eat in a day.

Measure the amount of floor space in a hut per person.

Compare this floor space to the amount you have in your home. (You will need to find out the total floor space and divide this by the number of people living there.)

Describe the difficulties refugees might face living in these camps.

Describe the difficulties camp organisers might face in providing for the needs of refugees.

Outline how the Community Agriculture and Nutrition project, the Longyi Weaving Project or the Karen Young Women’s Leadership School is supporting people’s ability to help themselves and maintain their culture.

Describe the issues preventing resolution of the situation and how the international community could be involved.

Create a presentation to show the problems faced by displaced people in Myanmar.

Investigate other programs run in Australia that support newly arrived refugees to settle in and rebuild their lives.

Discuss what actions you could take to address the needs and rights of refugees in Australia.

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To minimise environmental impact, Myanmar refugees construct and repair their houses with materials provided by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium.
Photo from Act for Peace
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To minimise environmental impact, Myanmar refugees construct and repair their houses with materials provided by the Thailand Burma Border Consortium. Photo from Act for Peace