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In This Issue

Classroom Guide

For students: We hope this guide will help sharpen your reading skills and deepen your understanding of this issue’s articles.

For teachers: We encourage reproduction and adaptation of these ideas, freely and without further permission from Saudi Aramco World, by teachers at any level, whether working in a classroom or through home study.


Class Activities

This issue’s activities, all of which focus on “Bangladesh’s Audacity of Hope,” fall into three sections. The first is based on the notion that “poverty must be tackled from a holistic viewpoint.” (“Holistic” means trying to look at something from as many different ways as you can.) The second uses information about BRAC to understand key ideas about economics. The third section, Visual Analysis, analyzes one photograph that accompanies the article, and another one that doesn’t!

Theme: A Holistic Approach to Tackling Poverty

In the article, Kenyan activist Wangari Maathai is quoted saying that Fazle Hasan Abed founded the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee “on the belief that poverty must be tackled from a holistic viewpoint.” Through the activities in this section, you will have a chance to explore what that means.

“Bangladesh’s Audacity of Hope” describes numerous problems that face the poorest people of Bangladesh. BRAC has tried to do something about many of these problems, and its actions have helped reduce the severity of the problems. Read the article, paying particular attention to what the problems are, what actions BRAC has taken, and what has resulted. Working with a small group, write what you discover into the following chart, which contains one completed example for you. Add more lines if you have to. After you fill in the chart, you will have a chance to study its contents more closely.

Problem Intervention Outcome
25% infant mortality (children dying very young) Door-to-door education in oral rehydration 7% infant mortality

What Makes “Poverty”?
Poverty, of course, refers first to having little money and few material possessions. But there is more to it: There are many other problems that poor people often have to face. With your group, look at the problems you have listed in the left-hand column of your chart. Discuss the question: How does each relate to poverty? Does poverty cause the problem? Does the problem cause poverty? Or both? How? Let’s look at the example above: a high rate of infant mortality. How does that relate to poverty? Poor people often lack access to good health care, which may cause babies to be born prematurely or with health problems. Poor people may also suffer from poor nutrition and the kinds of diseases that spread from poor sanitation (for example, the diarrhea that BRAC has tried to reduce). So a high infant mortality rate can be seen as a reality that often accompanies poverty. With your group, go through the other problems on your chart. With each one, follow a train of thought modeled after the example in the previous paragraph. Write a sentence or two that explains the relationships you have identified between each problem and poverty. When you’re done, you should have a good sense of the many problems people experience when they are poor, and how these make it difficult to escape from poverty.

A Holistic Approach
Now return to the quote that describes BRAC’s philosophy: that poverty must be “tackled from a holistic viewpoint.” Turn your attention to the second column of your chart. If the first column identifies the problems of poverty, the interventions in the second column identify ways of addressing those problems. Look closely at your second-column list. Each action on the list is one part of a bigger strategy to combat poverty. Based on these interventions, what do you think a “holistic” approach would be? Discuss the question with your group. After your discussion, work on your own to write a paragraph that uses examples from BRAC to answer these questions: What is a “holistic approach to tackling poverty”? Why do BRAC leaders believe that such an approach is necessary?

Theme: Economics

You may have studied economics in a textbook, or looked up economic terms in a glossary. But the ideas of economics make the most sense when you see them in action, and “Bangladesh’s Audacity of Hope” has some great real-life examples. In this section of the “Classroom Guide,” you’ll define a few of these concepts, and you’ll see how they play out in BRAC’s work. By the time you’re finished, hopefully you will have a deeper understanding of both economics and BRAC’s efforts.

As a class, discuss the meaning of the term incentive. If you’re not sure what it means, go to an online economics glossary and find out. Then take two minutes and write down experiences with incentives that you’ve had in your own life, or examples of incentives that you’ve seen in movies or maybe in the news. Then have volunteers share some of their examples with the class.

Working with a partner, return to “Bangladesh’s Audacity of Hope” and find the passages that deal with incentives. Reread and highlight them. With your partner, discuss how BRAC uses incentives in its programs. Then, working on your own, write a paragraph that defines incentives and then explains how BRAC uses incentives to improve the lives of people in Bangladesh. For good measure, add a concluding sentence or two explaining how providing incentives can be part of “tackling” poverty.

Opportunity Costs
Opportunity cost is another important economic concept. With your partner, find a definition of opportunity cost and brainstorm examples of opportunity costs in your own experience. Here’s a hypothetical example to get you started. Let’s say that you’ve saved enough money to buy a pair of shoes or a sweater, but not both. If you choose the sweater, the opportunity cost is the shoes you can’t get; if you choose the shoes, the opportunity cost is the sweater. The concept of opportunity cost works for time, too. If you stay up an extra hour to study, the opportunity cost is the hour of sleep that you lose. If, on the other hand, you go to sleep rather than study another hour, the opportunity cost is whatever you might have learned in that extra hour.

Once you’re clear on the concept of opportunity cost and have thought about it in your own experience, go back to the article with your partner and find where opportunity costs are addressed. What situation does the article describe? What is the opportunity cost in that situation? With your partner, discuss who in Bangladesh might think the benefit gained is worth the opportunity cost and who might not think so. Why do you think each person might hold the opinion he or she holds? If you were to try to persuade one of these people to change his or her opinion, how would you do it?

Vertical Integration
Vertical integration is a business term that describes what happens when a single business controls different stages of producing something and selling it to people. (For example, when the parent company of this magazine’s publisher sells crude oil to a buyer who then refines it, that’s not vertical integration; however, when Saudi Aramco refines its own crude oil into gasoline and sells it at gas stations that it owns in Saudi Arabia, that is vertical integration.)

According to “Bangladesh’s Audacity of Hope,” BRAC practices a form of vertical integration. Find the part of the article that addresses vertical integration. Make a graphic that shows how vertical integration works at BRAC. To help you in your thinking, you might want to make a graphic that also shows vertical integration for other products and businesses that feel familiar to you. Then see how the different kinds of projects at BRAC are like them, and different.

Microfinance is a term you might not find in your average economics textbook. But it’s a term that you should know to be an informed citizen of the 21st century. Microfinance refers to making very small loans to very poor people, usually in developing countries. Microfinance institutions lend money to people that regular banks would likely ignore. The microfinancer’s aim is to help those they lend money to work their way out of poverty. Do some Internet research to answer these questions: 1) What makes microfinance different from conventional banking? 2) What makes it so important in developing countries like Bangladesh? and 3) What are some of the effects of microfinance?

Visual Analysis


The portrait at left, above, of BRAC founder and chairperson Fazle Hasan Abed, appears in the article’s Portrait Gallery. It was taken by Shehab Uddin, a student at Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Uddin took a magazine photography workshop with Saudi Aramco World Managing Editor Dick Doughty and photographer Amin Aminuzzaman.

With your classmates, take a long look at the picture. Here are a few questions to get you going: What is behind the subject? What is in front of him? What is the place he is in? What is he doing? What can you tell about him from the photo? How can you tell? Share your observations with the rest of the class.

Now look at Uddin’s other photograph of Abed, right. How is it different? What can you tell about Abed from this photograph? How? Which photo do you prefer? Why?

Now here is what Doughty had to say about what he and Uddin discussed in the workshop: “Shehab preferred [the righthand photo of Abed] because to him, the motion and color in the abstract painting behind Abed symbolized BRAC’s rapid, positive changes in the country, as well as modernity. Also, he said that the painter is one of the most famous in Bangladesh. I argued that is meaningful if you know Bangladeshi art, but because most of our readers don’t, they aren’t likely to understand that. On the other hand, the background image in the portrait-with-desk has both a modern and a bit of a traditional look to it, and that fits better with what our readers will learn in this story. But most of all I liked the cluttered desk. It tells us he is busy and ‘an ordinary guy,’ because lots of us have cluttered work areas no matter what we do. This helps our readers relate to him, even though he lives in a place that’s far away. Thus we concluded in our workshop that Shehab’s photo would work well in a Bangladeshi magazine—it’s a good shot, and it shows his face better—but my choice worked better for Saudi Aramco World.

Based on Doughty’s explanation, list three considerations that went into publishing the photograph of Abed that appears in the Portrait Gallery. Now step back and think about magazine photography more generally. What does a photographer consider when he or she is taking a photograph of someone for a magazine? What does the choice of background do to what we think about a person in a photograph?

Now try it yourself. Pair up with another student and take four portraits of that person. Take each portrait in a different setting, remembering that the setting tells a viewer a lot about the person in a photograph. When the photos are done, divide the class into groups of four or five. Share your photos with your group. Ask group members what each photo “tells” them about the person in it. Then explain what you intended to convey with the settings your chose. Did you succeed

Julie Weiss is an education consultant based in Eliot, Maine. She holds a Ph.D. in American studies. Her company, Unlimited Horizons, develops social studies, media literacy and English as a Second Language curricula, and produces textbook materials.