How to update teaching methods in Economics and Commerce subjects
There is an urgent need to update the syllabus of both economics and commerce in schools and colleges. The challenge is more important in today's times, when the global economic and business environment is so dynamic and has changed so much. Some nuances of this vital need are sought to be discussed in this article.
Introduction As one who has been in Corporate HR for over three decades, with a number of experiences in interviewing candidates for various positions, it is often very disturbing to note that the standards of education in both schools and colleges, in economics and commerce needs to be updated very fast.
For example, it is quite common for candidates to be interviewed with a 360-degree view of knowledge and current affairs. Accordingly, a B. Com student with a first class degree was asked in an interview for the post of Officer (Accounts &Finance) in a leading manufacturing organization of the auto-component sector, what he knew about the great Economic slowdown in the USA in 2008, and how that global economic crisis affected Indian organizations. While the candidate with three years experience was able to able to answer his core technical questions very well, he simply said that he did not know the answer to this question.
The interviewer did not take this lightly. He put the candidate on the waitlist. This candidate hailed from a fairly good college of Arts and Science situated in a big town in Western Tamil Nadu. Yet, it was clear that he was not updated. It later transpired that the teachers who taught him were not so serious about this particular topic and merely made passing references to it. Another candidate from a Chennai college who even answered key questions about a major recent scam in the NSE was selected. The interviewer felt that this quality of being updated would reflect on the urge to know new things, and not merely learn what is there in the syllabus.
The interview threw up a number of questions on the problem areas. In private conversation, many school and college teachers do point out that the syllabus in both economics and commerce needs a drastic revision, with specific reference to a) Major economies of the world and their operation b) Global economic environment c) How the economic policies are influenced through various events d) Knowledge of every single economic or commerce change in the past five years and e) Encouragement of learning through case-studies.
Major economies of the world and their operationSince the New Economic Policy that will unfold and become applicable from this academic year, will be made applicable throughout India, with some local modifications, and with choice of subjects from the 9th standard, over a period of time, there will be course combinations like Business Economics, Applied Accountancy, and Corporate Law or some thing similar. Or may be, even more combinations. Whatever that be, a 9th standard student should know the basics of major economies of the world -- for example, how the USA is the most developed economy in the world. It is also the world's largest democracy. A 9th standard student should know the connection between democracy and economic development.
At the graduation level, the candidate's level of knowledge should increase manifold and this knowledge should make him a fuller person. Even today, colleges like the St. Stephen's College New Delhi or the Loyola College Chennai have such knowledge as part of the BA (Economics) or B. Com courses. But the precise problem is that such massive updating of syllabuses does not happen in most colleges. At the 12th standard level, the student should at least know how the entire Europe, as a major market functions a big force that influences many world economies and so on. The level of advanced knowledge should obviously increase in the three or four year degree course, under the NEP.
Global economic environment Many students who present themselves for interviews do not even know basics of how global companies like Apple Computers have influenced the world. They just know a little about Steve Jobs and that is about all. This is a pathetic state of affairs. This should not happen. There is an urgent need to educate the plus one and plus two students on such finer details. Hence, when they pass out of school, they will at least know something in detail. This is extremely important.
There is also the role of international politics. For example, how economic sanctions affect the particular countries. The need is to go on innovating in terms what is takes to gather such information. Today, the internet is a massive source of such knowledge. The students should be given projects where they can focus on acquiring such knowledge in a very serious way.
How the economic policies are influenced through various events The plus two students in standard 12, should be immediately taught what can happen to Ukraine as a nation, because of the war. What can also happen to the rest of the world, since Russia is so keen on asserting itself. There are the current affairs kind of knowledge that should be taught to every student. Even within India, while the South Indian States are well developed on every single parameter of economic development, why is that the Hindi belt is so backward? What is the role of the economic policies of these States? These are the larger questions that need to immediately answered and knowledge thereof should be taught every extensively in the four year degree course. The 12th standard student should at least know the basics of such important events and the policies that govern them.
Knowledge of every single economic or commerce change in the past five years How many commerce or economics students would be able to answer what happened to the Indian economy after demonetization and after the introduction of GST? How does GST affect the final price of products? How does a small trader do the GST and how does he pay tax?
Most students would not answer a single question and many would even say "these are things outside our syllabus". The students are not to blame. It is the fault of the education system as it now exists in most States of India. People are blissfully unaware of the larger implications of such changes. What stops a 12th standard student to sit in the nearest internet café, where the individual entrepreneur would pay his GST and is also duly registered? Even a couple of hours usefully spent there, will enable the student to know quite a bit.
Encouragement of learning through case-studies While the urge to know new things should start right in the schools, developing a research bent of mind through case-studies should start at the graduate level. For example, the teacher should write a case-study on demonetization and its effects on the unorganized sector. Yes, there is some solid data available. For example, today, when the Covid-19 scare is down, the presence of contract and casual labor in the most vital segments of the economy, like for example, textiles and tourism, is a by-product of the policies of the Government of India. When such comprehensive knowledge begins to reside in the minds of students, there is bound to be some change.
Conclusion The dynamic changes that happen all around us should interest economics and commerce students like never before. They should compulsorily learn from various sources and become very much updated. Some directions or possible parameters have been discussed above and there is a huge scope for innovation as well.
Economics and commerce are the subjects which are closely linked to the industry around the world and understanding and learning the topics, especially the modern understandings of these subjects, is very essential for the students of these streams. Economic policies go on changing in the country and they have to be kept in sync with the international trade and business environment. It is natural that the knowledge of global changes is a must for the students who are pursuing these subjects. Today the international business has increased tremendously and countries are increasing their exports to offset their imports so that they remain in the positive territories of the balance of trade. The students have to understand these realities and practical aspects while learning these subjects and until they learn the emerging skills in these areas they would not be able to understand these subjects in their entirety. In view of these observations it is necessary that the syllabus is to be revised from time to time so that our students can perform better when they join a company in positions where concrete and updated knowledge of these subjects is mandatory.