Cabinet meeting

Subject: Social studies
Summary: Students act as ministers in a state government. Depending on a number of ministers they discuss the financial crises that has hit the budget and try to fight for their share of the incomes and the responsibilities of the field they are representing.
Activity length: Duration is 135 minutes (3x45 minutes).
Objectives:
  • Students find info about how the government works.
  • Students debate on the government budget cuts and argue why they should get how much money
Preparation:

Teacher needs to hand out tasks beforehand for the students to prepare and research. Depending on the class size and cabinet size of any given country, class must be divided to groups of 3-4 students. Students must choose one of them who represent them as minister and others as councilors.

Teacher prepares the classroom in a way that the tables are set as a one big conference table. All cabinet members must fit behind the table.

Teacher prepares name tags for each minister (i.e Foreign minister).

Description:

Part 1: All ministers sit behind the cabinet table. Councilors and advisors can sit behind the minister to advise him/her. Ministers present 4-5 min presentation of their field of responsibility. And what budget cuts do they need to do in order to fulfil their most crucial tasks and responsibilities. They can also offer ways to increase revenue.

Part 2: After each presentation other ministers may ask up to 3 questions. This is moderated by the Prime Minister whose role can be played by the teacher or other able students. Only ministers are allowed to speak in the meeting. Advisors may whisper their questions to ministers.

Part 3: After the initial reports the budget is summed up and it is likely that there is more expenditure planned than money to spend. Prime minister moderates a debate, votes and new plans to reach a balanced budget.

Assessment:

Groups are graded by their engagement and quality of presentation.

Additional notes:

Case

Due to unforeseeable circumstances the state incomes have lessened by roughly 10 times (i.e. Estonian state budget from 9,5 billions to 1 billion euros) for one financial year. Each cabinet member must plan a crises budget to fulfill its responsibilities but also cut down on excess activities.

It is not advisable to just divide current budget with 10, as this may mean you cannot fulfill any of your responsibilities.

Example:

Minister of Health and Welfare (responsible of pension, social benefits, healthcare)

Current budget 3,6 billion (of 10 billion state budget). If you just ask for 360 million you have to cut down on basically everything: no pensions, no welfare no healthcare). You may ask for more than your previous proportion as your field of responsibility is more important that minister of defense for example.

Students are encouraged to make and argue for big budget cuts.