Development Economics – Resources

I enjoy teaching Development Economics as I used to be a Geography teacher and Development is taught across both the Geography and Economics IB syllabi. In the current curriculum, Development Economics is seen as the poor brother, for a variety of reasons, to the other topics of Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and International Trade. With the introduction of the new curriculum, the Development Economics section of the course will gain more importance and will be assessed as a compulsory data response element of Paper 2 for both SL and HL students. This means that teachers will likely reshuffle their units and will be looking for some new resources to revitalise the topic. Fortunately there is a plethora of excellent resources available which I highly recommend.

New Syllabus for Development Economics

Links to Geography

If you are new to teaching Development Economics, or need some inspiration, I would find the Geography teacher at your school and start a conversation about resources they use. The IB Geography teachers also have a new curriculum and the Development section from their syllabus is shown below. As you can see, there are some nice cross overs especially in the last section “Reducing Disparities” where students are asked to evaluate the effectiveness of strategies, such as trade, debt relief and aid.

Within the OCC there is a Geography Wiki with resources relating to the subtopic below. Have a look at some of the resources that have been suggested. IB Geography Wiki – Disparities, Wealth and Development

Case Studies for Development

Geographers tend to take a case study approach to teaching, and I think Economics teachers should try make extensive use of the same pedagogy to give students the examples and context required to understand the complex development issues. Here are some of my ideas for suitable case studies:

Haiti – rebuilding a nation from an earthquake

This would be an excellent case study for students to apply some of the ideas on how to help developing countries and the problems associated with the topic. I used this the year after the earthquake but you could adapt for more recent natural disasters such as the floods in Pakistan.

Ethiopia and the Coffee Trade

Ethiopia is an interesting case study of a nation which is overdependent on a narrow range of exports including coffee. Therefore the country illustrates the importance of International Trade, but also the problems that these less developed countries face and fits nicely into the new curriculum.

Black Gold: A film about Coffee and Trade, is a wonderfully insightful documentary about the plight of Ethiopian farmers who grow the sidamo coffee beans. The film begins by explaining the price farmers receive for a kilogram of coffee beans. The documentary follows the trade of coffee from the farmer, through the commodity markets to the multinational companies. The narrator explains his drive to improve the livelihoods of the rural coffee growers by promoting fair trade.  I purchased the DVD from the films website.  It arrived in my mailbox a few weeks later. The website also provides some good resources and a coffee calculator, which explains the travesty and oppression created by free trade.

The Asian Tigers – The Role of Foreign Direct Investment and International Trade

Four countries in South East Asia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea have been nicknamed the Asian Tigers for thier process of rapid economic growth in the last forty years. For many economists that are the example of why trade orientation policies are so important for development. In recent years the four countries have shown the impact of being too open to international FDI and the rapid decline in international demand for exports. The following articles are useful in teaching these ideas to your students and provide excellent context for evaluation and a discussion of market orientated policies.

Democratic Republic of Congo – foreign investment and selling resources

This is a topic I have stumbled across a few times. Recently China has been invested vast amounts of Foreign Capital into parts of Africa including the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Other resources for Development

Statistics – explaining the disparities between countries

Gapminder and Hans Rosling’s resources have to be the holy grail for teachers to explain development statistics. There are a variety of different tools available but I always go back to simple flash animation as an introduction with my students.


  • Gapminder Worksheet to explain the differences between the developed and less developed parts of the world
  • Basic Instruction – GapMinder – instructions on how to use
  • Favourite poster – Development Indicators – Chosen 50– great to use as a game with students. Each students makes a paper hat with the country name and then the students get themselves into order according to the indicators. A good way for students to visualise the link between HIV infection and life expectancy and other correlations.

Millenium Development Goals

There is a lot of widely published material about these goals and the progress acheived. These goals have a greater emphasis in the new curriculum.

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