Patterns and change

"The core theme provides an overview of the geographic foundation for the key global issues of our times. The purpose is to provide a broad factual and conceptual introduction to each topic and to the United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), in particular those concerning poverty reduction, gender equality, improvements in health and education and environmental sustainability. An evaluation of the progress made towards meeting these goals is also provided.

The core theme also develops knowledge of the likely causes and impacts of global climate change, a major contemporary issue of immense international significance. An understanding of this issue is the fundamental basis for the section on patterns in environmental quality and sustainability.

The emphasis in teaching the core theme should be on the concepts underlying much of the content and the consequent regional and global patterns. Attention should be give to the positive aspects of change (not only the negative aspects), to the need to accept responsibility for seeking solutions to the demographic, economic and environmental issue covered, and, where appropriate, to the management strategies adopted to successfully meet the challenges posed.

It is recommended that as much of the content as possible is taught though appropriate examples and case studies, preferably chosen from a limited number of countries (between three and five) of contrasting levels of development. Although many of the ideas are reflected in differences at the local or sub-national scale, the emphasis in the core theme is on national, regional and global trends and patterns.

It is not intended for the topics to be taught sequentially because some issues cover several of the topics. The approach to teaching is not prescribed and the content can be taught with flexibility according to the interest of the teacher and needs of the students"
(Geography syllabus, IBO 2010).
  1. Population in Transition

2. Disparities in wealth and development

3. Patterns in environmental quality and sustainability

4. Patterns in resource consumption


Gross National Income (now used in preference to gross national product - GNP). The total value of goods and services produced within a country together with the balance of income and payments from or to other countries.
The movement of people, involving a change of residence. It can be internal or external (international) and voluntary or forced. It does not include temporary circulations such as commuting tourism.
Transfer of money/goods by foreign workers to their home countries.
Soil degradation
A severe reduction in the quality of soils. The term includes soil erosion, salinization and soil exhaustion (loss of fertility).
Water Scarcity
Can be defined as:
  • physical water scarcity, where water resource development is approaching or has exceeded unsustainable levels; it relates water availability to water demand and implies that arid areas are not necessarily water scarce
  • economic water scarcity, where water is available locally but not accessible for human, institutional or financial capital reasons.
(Geography syllabus, IBO 2010)