Is (teaching) Economics doing more harm than good?

Some interesting thoughts (and evidence) from Brian Lucey here.

An intellectual winter reports on a speech given by President Higgins at the University of Chicago this evening.

PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has told students at the University of Chicago that the teaching of economics is going through “an intellectual winter” because it doesn’t take account of the social impacts of policy.

“The recent economic and financial upheavals have thrown a glaring light on the shortcomings of the intellectual tools provided by mainstream economics and its key assumption regarding the sustainability of self-regulating markets (and, more particularly, of largely unregulated global financial markets),” he told the assembly.

The prepared text for the speech is available on the President’s website.  A recording of the actual delivery and subsequent Q&A session is available here.

Economics and Finance Teaching Before and After the Crisis

Brian Lucey and I conducted a survey of all university teachers of economics and finance in December 2013. A presentation of our findings is here (.pdf). Brian’s thoughts are here.

The main results from the sample of respondents are:

  • Teaching has not changed much in response to the crisis.
  • Attitudes to newer, or more critical material appear mixed at best.
  • Respondents emphasised the need for broader contextualisation and increased mathematical competence.We find it hard to see how to reconcile these findings.
  • Irish Economic Policy Conference 2014: Economic Policy after the Bailout

    Organised jointly by the ESRI, Dublin Economic Workshop, UL, and UCD’s Geary Institute, this year’s policy conference (see previous years here and here) will be on the theme of economic policy after the bailout. This conference brings policy makers, politicians, civil servants and academics together to address this question of national importance. The venue will be the Institute of Bankers in the IFSC. (Click here for a map).

    Date: 31st January 2013

    Venue: Institute of Bankers, IFSC


    9:15 – 10:45: Plenary: The Impact of the Crisis on Industrial Relations

    Chair: Aedín Doris (NUI Maynooth)

    • Kieran Mulvey (Labour Relations Commission) Prospects for Pay and Industrial Relations in the Irish Economy
    • Shay Cody (IMPACT Trade Union) “The impact of the crisis on industrial relations – a public service focus”
    • Michelle O’Sullivan/Tom Turner (University of Limerick) “The Crisis and Implications for Precarious Employment’”

    10.45-11.15: Coffee Break

    11:15 – 12:45: 2A. Migration and the Labour Market

    Chair: Philip O’Connell (UCD Geary Institute)

    • Piaras MacÉinrí (UCC) ‘Beyond the choice v constraint debate: some key findings from a recent representative survey on emigration’
    • Peter Muhlau (TCD) “Social ties and the labour market integration of Polish migrants in Ireland and Germany”
    • Alan Barrett (ESRI & TCD) and Irene Mosca (TCD) “The impact of an adult child’s emigration on the mental health of an older parent”

    2B. Economics: Teaching and Practice

    Chair: Ronan Gallagher (Dept of Public Expenditure and Reform)

    • Brian Lucey (TCD): “Finance Education Before and After the Crash”
    • Liam Delaney (Stirling): “Graduate Economics Education”
    • Jeffrey Egan (McGraw-Hill Education) “The commercial interest in Third Level Education”

    12:45 – 1:45: Lunch Break

    1:45 – 3:15: 3A. Health and Recovery

    Chair: Alex White, TD, Minister of State

    • David Madden (UCD) “Health and Wealth on the Roller-Coaster: Ireland 2003-2011”
    • Charles Normand TCD) and Anne Nolan (TCD & ESRI) “The impact of the economic crisis on health and the health system in Ireland”
    • Paul Gorecki (ESRI) ‘Pricing Pharmaceuticals: Has Public Policy Delivered?”

    3B. Fiscal Policy

    Chair: Stephen Donnelly TD

    • Seamus Coffey (UCC) “The continuing constraints on Irish fiscal policy”
    • Diarmuid Smyth (IFAC) ‘IFAC: Formative years and the future’
    • Rory O’Farrell, (NERI) “Supplying solutions in demanding times: the effects of various fiscal measures”

    3:15 – 3:30: Coffee Break

    3:30 – 5:00: Plenary: Debt, Default and Banking System Design

    Chair: Fiona Muldoon (Central Bank of Ireland)

    • Gregory Connor (NUI Maynooth) “An Economist’s Perspective on the Quality of Irish Bank Assets”
    • Kieran McQuinn and Yvonne McCarthy (Central Bank of Ireland) “Credit conditions in a boom and bust property market”
    • Colm McCarthy “Designing a Banking System for Economic Recovery”
    • Ronan Lyons (TCD) “Household expectations and the housing market: from bust to boom???”

    This conference receives no funding, so we have to charge to cover expenses like room hire, tea and coffee. The registration fee is €20, but free for students. Please click here or on the link below to pay the fee, then register by attaching your payment confirmation to an e-mail with your name and affiliation to [Block bookings can be made by purchasing the required number of registrations and then sending the list of names to]

    Please click here to pay the registration fee.

    An updated economics syllabus after 44 years would be an asset

    I don’t normally post my indo columns here, but I think readers of this blog may be interested in this one. The column follows on from last week’s discussion on this blog about the leaving certificate economics exam and its problems, but focuses on trying to secure a constructive outcome if possible.

    I think we have to recognise two sets of constraints here.

    1. Second level teachers have mixed ability classes and can’t do an undergraduate level of work in their classrooms. The objective of leaving certificate economics is not to produce economists per se but rather economically knowledgeable citizens who study this subject as one among many subjects. Teachers and textbook writers are constrained by the 44 year old syllabus, but have to do their best with what they’ve got. So teachers will be rightly annoyed when reading comments about how potentially damaging the current syllabus is in terms of economic understanding.
    2. Third level economics lecturers like Kevin, Aedin and others rightly point out the deficiencies in the current exam content and structure and feel they should have some input into what is taught and why. Both sides agree the syllabus as is is not fit for purpose.

    The solution, at least it seems to me, is to take the 2005 revised economics syllabus and update it together in a forum like the business studies teachers’ association, and present that to the NCCA. If everyone was happy enough with it, I don’t see why it couldn’t be rolled out fairly quickly with some inservice training for teachers.

    It’s one thing to criticise and point out flaws when they exist, and Kevin and Aedin in particular were right to do so. But if we actually profess to know something about this subject, I think we should have a go at helping teachers to fix those flaws, if we can.