Reforming teaching of economics – a roadmap

Economists love to use to word reform for changing anything related to economics. But how about a reform to change the way economists teach the subject?

Post Crash Economics, is this forum/society floated by Manchester School to reform economics teaching. The guys at Manchester are taking forward the movement launched by French students in 1999 to reform economics., The movement despite its appeal and support could not make much headaway.  This have hotted up after the recent crisis which has led many to introspect over econ teaching.

PCE has released this really interesting roadmap for reforming economics. The broad idea is – teach history and make economics connect to the real world:

What’s in the report?

“I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws, or crafts its treatises, if I can write its economics textbooks.” Paul Samuelson

The report moves the story forward by making it easier for the press, policymakers and the public to understand the issue, as well as outlining proposals for change. It is a detailed, evidence-based argument outlining the shortcomings of economics education at the University of Manchester. However, its implications are far broader than a single university. The homogeneity of economics education on a global level is well documented and the widespread frustration with it is evidenced by the existence of similar student movements in countries from China to Chile, from India to North America and all over Europe. Students are in revolt. With fresh insights and perspective we, the children of the financial crisis, are determined that the economies that we create will do better. The future is in our hands and we refuse to repeat past mistakes.

What’s wrong with economics education?

Economics education is monopolised by a single school of thought commonly referred to as neoclassical economics. Crucially, very few economists working within this mainstream predicted the Financial Crisis. Afterwards many concluded that the best predictions came from those economists that had been marginalised by the mainstream. Despite this alternative perspectives are still close to non-existent in undergraduate programmes. We demonstrate this through a detailed analysis of Manchester’s syllabus, which itself is representative of economics syllabuses around the UK. This lack of competing thought stifles innovation, damages creativity and suppresses the constructive criticisms that are so vital for economic understanding and advancement. There is also a distinct lack of real-world application of economic ideas, with the focus being on abstract modelling that often seems devoid from reality. Finally, the study of ethics, politics and history are almost completely absent from the syllabus. We propose that economics cannot be properly understood with all these aspects excluded.

We end the report by presenting achievable short and medium-term changes that we believe should be adopted by Manchester. We believe that overall the report shows that Manchester and other universities have a responsibility to ensure that the academic environment within Economics departments is open and representative of the diversity of economics. They must do so not only to retain their academic integrity, but also because the public nature of economics means that they have a social responsibility to ensure greater value on critical skills and diversity.

In this report we combine the energy of our campaign with the professionalism and academic rigour necessary to substantiate our arguments. We believe the only way to succeed in our aims is to collaborate with economists across the discipline, and we intend for this report to open discussions that will propel our movement forward and stimulate progressive conversations across the board. Whilst it condemns the current state of affairs, it should be seen less as a negative document and more as our first offering to an essential, global discussion; a discussion that should demand the attention of all who are interested in the positive development of society.

Great stuff from the PECS.

The real q is whether it can shake the guys/schools who set the agenda for all the others?

One Response to “Reforming teaching of economics – a roadmap”

  1. Challenges before changing the mainstream economics curriculum | Mostly Economics Says:

    […] Diana Coyle of Enlightenment economics has been one of the major econs asking for a change in economics curriculum. In her recent piece, she reflects on the recent proposals to reform econ teaching. […]

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