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ASSESSING DEVELOPMENT IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD: AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH
[ M.S DeVivo, ] - Associate Professor of Geography, Grand Rapids Community College.
Concentrated in the Middle East, albeit spread across the globe, 48 countries on three continents make up the Islamic states of the world, each experiencing variable levels of development and characterized by different indicators. For example, whereas Albania has an infant mortality rate lower than the United States, nearly 16% of the infants born in Afghanistan do not survive their first year of life. In Kazakhstan, almost 100% of the girls anticipate attending school for 16 years, but in Guinea‐Bissau only about a quarter will attend for an average of four years. And in Bangladesh, eight out of ten people live on less than US$2 a day, while in Iran it is merely eight out of 100. These measures offer descriptions and contrasts of Islamic societies vis‐à‐vis the character of their populations, and they also provide a valuable alternative to the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), which largely ignores important factors associated with female educational achievement and infant mortality (in addition to other phenomena). Thus, it is suggested that a new approach, which is based on an assessment of eight key demographic variables, can facilitate geographical literacy in the classroom, as well as provide insight to decision‐makers and analysts engaged in both development and conflict resolution. For the purpose of this paper, Islamic countries are defined as those in which a plurality of the population embraces Islam. They are examined with regard to infant mortality, percentage of population under the age of 15, urbanization, literacy, female literacy, percentage of population living on less than US$2 each day, school life expectancy, and female school life expectancy. Scores are arithmetically tabulated for each country, which are then categorized. Though seemingly simplistic, this method has important utility in geographic education in both formal and informal settings, for it fosters greater comprehension of the liabilities and assets unique to each state.