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Extended Study to Bangladesh

ECON 239: The Role of Non-Governmental Organizations in Economic Development
Three-week course in Bangladesh

Directors: Professors Jay R. Mandle, Department of Economics, and Joan Mandle, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Emerita
Tentative travel dates: December 28, 2014 – January 19, 2015
Course credit: .05 credit
Prerequisites: ECON 238: Economic Development (or by permission of director)


The primary goal of this course is to study the role that can be played by non-governmental organizations in alleviating poverty and advancing the status of women in a low-income nation. Specifically it will examine the work of BRAC in Bangladesh. The course will be composed of both lectures and on-site visits to BRAC centers.

BRAC is a non-profit organization that has been in existence since 1972. First established to care for the victims of Bangladesh’s War for Independence, it has extended both the scope of its activities and its geographic outreach since then. Today it is the largest NGO based in the developing world, with over 90,000 employees in Bangladesh, serving millions of Bangladeshi citizens. Its range of activities extends to education, health care, legal rights, and poverty alleviation and it is present in eight other low-income countries, including Afghanistan and Haiti. Gender equality, respect for the environment, and inclusivity are themes crosscutting all of its activities. Since its infrastructure is most developed in Bangladesh, that country affords the best opportunity to examine the achievements, limits, and potential of such an organization.

The group will spend three weeks in Bangladesh, accompanied by Prof. Jay R. Mandle, the W. Bradford Wiley Professor of Economics. Topics to be covered include Bangladesh’s economic history and recent economic growth, the role of women in Bangladesh society, Bangladesh’s social and political institutions, Bangladesh’s relationship with neighboring countries, particularly India and Pakistan, and BRAC’s structure and experience.

During the stay in Bangladesh, the students will reside in the BRAC Headquarters in Dhaka, and in BRAC’s Guest Houses and training centers in rural Bangladesh. Though modest, the amenities provided by these facilities are more than adequate. These are dormitory-like facilities in which two students will share a room with its own toilet facilities. Meals will be provided in a community lunch room.

Each student will be expected upon completion of the course to prepare a paper comprised of two sections. In the first, the student will assess, on the basis of their on-site observations and the lectures at BRAC University, the role that BRAC plays in Bangladesh’s economic development. In the second, they will generalize from this case study to evaluate both the limits and the potential that non-governmental organizations can play in creating a fair and inclusive development process.


Economics 238: Economic Development
Economic Development is a course designed to familiarize students with the theory of economic development and an appreciation of the empirical pattern that has been experienced with regard to the process of modern economic growth. The overall intent is to provide the students with a framework of analysis by which to think about the process of economic modernization and globalization. The topics covered include technological change, structural transformation, quantitative measurements of the process, historical and contemporary theories of development, population change, the role of women, the importance of agriculture, and global climate change. The course requires the students to form groups of three or four to study the experience of a specific region in the developing world and to make a presentation in class assessing successes or failure.