A discussion-oriented lesson that comes at the concept of corruption from a number of point of views to get students talking including giving them situations, a case-study and research on international corruption.


A discussion oriented lesson that comes at the concept of corruption from a number of point of views to get students talking including giving them situations, a case-study and research on international corruption.


  • Promote fluency
  • Discuss corruption from a holistic point of view including bribes, favors, illegal corruption, and even rewarding children and friends
  • Give students a reading for discussion
  • Give students practice in reading and discussing a statistical table
  • Encourage students to provide support for beliefs


Note: that this can be a sensitive topic for some students and you should be careful to remain neutral about particular individuals or countries. First of all, you might get into trouble with students, administration or the law if you teach in a country where libel laws are strong. Also some students may get defensive about their country and culture. If you are a Westerner working in another country, they may also feel that you are trying to preach to them or subtly spread a political message. So try to keep the conversation philosophical and theoretical. Of course, if you feel comfortable and you are in a safe environment for open discussion, feel free to supplement this lesson with recent or famous corruption trials.

Warm Up

First, hand out the Corruption Situations worksheet and have students discuss the situations. They should decide if they consider these actions to be corruption or not. The list is meant to get more suspicious as it goes on. The discussion can be done in small groups with students reporting back or as a whole class. Make sure to have students give reasons for deciding if these are corrupt activities or not. Encourage students to think about different circumstances, and make sure to get everyone’s opinions as this activity can lead to a lot of discussion as people agree and disagree. You can also play devil’s advocate to encourage kids to speak up and analyze their position.

Then ask students which situations they believe are legal in their country, and if there is any relationship between legality and corruption. i.e. can there be legalized corruption? Finally ask students if they know of any other examples of corruption? What forms of corruption are most common in their

Definition of Corruption

Once you have gone through the situations, ask students how they would define corruption. Write anything they say on the board. They may come up with, or you can encourage them to include:
illegal, paying someone to do their job, paying extra because you are not connected, getting benefits from your job or family position, personally getting paid from business contracts, making fake documents.

The Culture of Corruption: Parking Ticket Study

Then introduce the Culture of Corruption study by explaining that two scientists, Ray Fishman and Edward Miguel did a study of corruption by looking at how often UN diplomats abused their diplomatic immunity. Explain “diplomatic immunity”, if necessary, and make it clear that diplomats do not have to pay parking tickets. Then explain that this study decided that that was a perfect definition of corruption: how often diplomats abuse their immunity by parking illegally. Ask students if they agree with this definition.

If you have a lot of grumbling you might draw a parallel to a rich and powerful businessman never being brought to court for crimes because of his job. Or some other more extreme form of abuse of position. Ask students which countries they think were most corrupt, which were least corrupt, and where they think their own country ended up. Then hand out the country table and let students discuss it amongst themselves. Be careful here if you teach in a multi-cultural class to make sure that students don’t start becoming disrespectful of each other’s countries.

Discussion Questions

Once the students have digested the table, hand out the Questions for Discussion and have students discuss them in pairs. The idea is to push
them toward thinking deeply about corruption. What causes it and how do we stop it? Or is it just part of human nature? Who is more to blame, the bribe-giver or the bribe-taker? Again encourage students to give reasons or examples to support their point.

Victimless Crime

After these questions have been exhausted, hand out the short story, Victimless Crime, about a man who finds out who suffers from corruption. Have students read the story and discuss whether they believe corruption is really a victimless crime or not. Promote discussion by asking them to consider the questions at the end of the text. You might choose to explain that the story is fictional but is based on real events that have happened to real people.

This is a class that usually runs out of time before all the students have had their say.

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