Madagascar: Urbanization and Rural Development

Key Features

Lakana sailboat

The Madagascar: Urbanization and Rural Development program combines classroom learning with field-based study in Antananarivo and beyond.

Explore Antananarivo (program base).
The program is based in Antananarivo, commonly referred to as "Tana," where students live for much of the semester. Tana has a distinct character and, as the country’s capital, is at the center of Madagascar’s cultural, economic, and political life. The city reflects a fascinating mix of nineteenth-century Malagasy and more recent European influences, evident in its layout, architecture, economy, attitudes, and atmosphere.  

Tana's central role as the seat of government, and as an economic, administrative, and artistic capital, makes it an excellent base from which to explore the program's major themes. As the largest city in Madagascar, Tana attracts rural migrants from throughout the countryside; the city is the main destination for migrants from rural villages and towns across Madagascar.

Most national and international organizations with operations in Madagascar are headquartered in Tana. Although the city is considered part of the ancestral homeland of the Merina people, its population is composed of people from all parts of the country, and all of Madagascar's ethnic groups are represented in Tana.

Improve your French language skills in a new context.
Students use academic French throughout the program's coursework and apply their French while in Tana and other larger cities. The program's immersive French language course focuses primarily on conversation in the Malagasy context with some emphasis on writing skills. In addition, the course explores texts in French to interrogate the postcolonial politics of Malagachization, bilingualism, and the role of French language in the integration of Malagasy society into the international francophone community.

Students are divided by language staff into at least three groups based on ability level. Efforts are made to meet the specific needs of each student. Students have the opportunity to practice their language skills both in and outside the classroom, including during homestays, lectures, and field visits.

Note: It is assumed that students enter the program with at least a low intermediate level in French; basic instruction at the novice level is not part of the curriculum.

Students visiting the doany in Majunga where relics sacred to the Sakalava ancestral royalty are kept.

Learn Malagasy.
French is less commonly spoken in Madagascar’s rural areas. The program’s Malagasy language course helps students better communicate during village stays and excursions to rural areas and/or smaller urban centers. Students learn everyday Malagasy with an emphasis on Official Malagasy, the dialect most commonly spoken in Antananarivo. Some instruction in key words and phrases from other dialects is provided as the program moves to other regions of the country. Learning even basic Malagasy helps students to make inroads into the culture and to make friends and contacts.

Linguists classify Malagasy among the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup of the Austronesian language family. The numerous Malagasy dialects are closely related, and all are considered to be variants of a single language.

Independent Study Project
In the final month of the program, students complete an Independent Study Project (ISP), a field-based academic study of a topic related to Malagasy culture, society, and economic development. Each student selects an ISP advisor from among the outstanding array of researchers and professionals affiliated with the program. The ISP is conducted in an approved region of Madagascar appropriate to the student's project.

Sample topics for the ISP include:

  • Role of fady (taboo) in Malagasy life
  • Family planning on the village level
  • Urban planning in Tana
  • Role of ombiasy (traditional healers)
  • Traditional weaving techniques
  • Prenatal healthcare in rural areas
  • Gendered perspectives on rural to urban migration
  • Malaria prevention and treatment
  • Language teaching in primary and secondary education
  • Local radio as a means of communication
  • Rural migration and exodus


Costs Dates



Credits: 16

Duration: 15 weeks

Program Base: Antananarivo

Language Study: French,  Malagasy

Prerequisites: 3 semesters French Read more...

Madagascar

View Student Evaluations for this program:

About the Evaluations (PDF)

Fall 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2013 Evaluations (PDF)
Spring 2012 Evaluations (PDF)


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