23 April 2010

Economics Made Easy: An Essay

I wrote this piece of article almost a year ago. It was meant for an essay competition, which I didn't manage to win any recognition. Nevertheless, it was a unique experince for me; I've never entered such a large scale competition before.

For those who have never learned economics, or even hate economics (hohoho..), don't worry, this will be an easy read. And I surely hope you will enjoy it..! Cheerios..! =)


***


When you talk about economics to the average Joe, what would you expect him to think of? Either he has discovered an amazing offer from Ryanair for its economy seat or he is thinking to buy his economy meal lunch from the nearest Chinese take-away. It’s devastating, isn’t it? Well, we cannot blame him for one obvious reason; economics is a complicated subject to discuss with people who are not familiar with its numerous concepts. Unless you have some background in economics (thanks to your O-Levels), economics seems to be the least favourite topic to talk about during one of your Starbucks sessions. 

This should not be the case. Economics is probably the most fundamental concept in one’s daily life. From choosing which type of bread you want to eat for tomorrow’s breakfast to why some men choose to be single throughout his life, economics has the answers to all. But before we can educate people on why economics should not be treated as a Martian, it is crucial for us to realize that even people who are doing the subject in schools and universities find it hard to grasp fully the beauty of this subject. With complex graphs and diagrams, confusing formulas and equations, economics is unlikely to be fun and enjoyable. This definitely should not be the case.

Have you ever wondered why students of the humanities, especially those who are doing literature and history are having so much fun learning? Easy – their subjects are taught through vivid and vibrant stories. I believe, although it might be impossible to teach economics through stories of castles and princesses, a method of simplifying economic theories should be devised, such that students would find it interesting to read economic literature. As far as I’m concerned, the readily available economics textbooks are rather dull and dry. I challenge the reader to find someone who reads Microeconomics 3rd Edition with enthusiasm, eagerly flipping through every page, hungry for more economic theories. Economics textbooks are full of puzzling jargons, bursting with ever more complicated formulas. To make things worse, authors of these books do not seem to care about making these ideas more understandable. Thus, when my lecturer actually explained general equilibrium theory through Robinson Crusoe’s life, I found that very exciting and motivating. There should be more Superman, David Beckham or even Vicky Polard in economic study cases and examples.

Questions, provocative and mind-boggling questions should be asked more frequently to students to make this subject more interesting and lively. After all, it was through series of questions people like Adam Smith and Vilfredo Pareto found the answers for the most complicated matters. It was through relevant and significant questions that economic theories and concepts were actually able to develop and flourish. Robert H. Frank in his book, The Economic Naturalist, emphasizes the importance of asking the right questions, and hence the right answers to fully understand even the simplest economic problem. In this, students have to play their parts as well; they have to ask. Teachers, tutors and mentors have to encourage them to ask, even the craziest or the weirdest of questions. Why did governments all over the world are willing to spend billions to bail-out failing companies when poverty still exists? How could the Americans and the Chinese still eagerly produce millions of tonnes of CO2 when the world is melting thanks to the global warming? When? What? All sorts of questions need to be asked (not necessarily answered!) so that students can relate well with what they have studied and consequently, fully comprehend the subject matter. It will also create a competitive environment amongst the students to be more proactive in class and discussions and hence, make economics more interesting.

Assignments and workloads should not deter the students from wanting to know more about economics. They should work as a stimulus to encourage them to explore the hidden aspects and discover the hitherto unseen angles of economics. They should enhance students’ understanding of the subject matter, not make it more confusing and heartbreaking. In this, real case studies seem to be the only approach made available in schools and universities. This is good because students can assess and judge for themselves how economic theories are put into practice. But this is simply not enough. Students should engage in real economic situations and problems, to the point they can actually apply some of the concepts they have learnt. Recently, a friend of mine spearheaded the ‘Consumer Price Index (CPI) for Students’ project where he and his team had to collect data from scores of students on their daily expenses. The forthcoming results were more than just an academic exercise; now we understand more explicitly the spending habits of the students. This is exactly what I am talking about. Real case studies with real life approaches. Not just theories and explanations, more theories and more explanations. With such a practical approach, students have the incentive to put more effort into understanding the fundamentals of economics. Once they can witness the rationale of a particular economic theory for themselves, understanding it would be easy.

Economics is not just about GDP, GNP or Real Productivity growth. It is not just about demand and supply. There is more to economics. And students should be taught to realize that. Economics should be made easier because it is, undoubtedly and inevitably, the most interesting and captivating subject of all. Yes, numbers and formulas are important. But that does not mean economics should be taught as if you were building a submarine. I bet there are quite a few mathematicians and even economists out there who would disagree with me. But if there are easier ways and methods to make people appreciate economics as much as they love eating chips and kebabs, ask yourself – why not?

-gabbana-

6 Caci Maki Puji Muji:

MiD 28/02/2009, 08:30  

Couldn't agree more. I am still trying to find my passion and love for this subject because it is yet to appeal me. In my eyes, it is still dull and dry. Please make doa for me so that I will be able to appreciate more of this knowledge.

gabbana 03/03/2009, 22:41  

IAllah... Study it with your heart, and He will show you the way! =)

trulyidea 27/04/2010, 13:22  

cite lagi...

Anonymous 07/05/2010, 15:11  

well not just economic my friend, mot of the subject like dat,,,bt i think d learning bcome fun n attractive wen teacher\lectrer\prof teach it in much more easy n fun way,,just like wat u say,,they btr put more ironman, beckhem,sprman n other in d study case to make it more intresting n easy to understand...kan kan kan

gabbana 10/05/2010, 23:07  

trulyidea: IAllah bila ada peluang akan cerita lagi.. ;)

anonymous: can't agree more. i'm just being conveniently biased here, the fact tht im doing econs at the moment.. hehe.. sorry bout tht!~

nurul 26/07/2013, 12:30  

tak sanggup nak baca habis, kepeningan..hu2..tapi i like this sentence- Assignments and workloads should not deter the students from wanting to know more about economics--not only economics, in any subjects..sometimes to much assignment...most of the times available spent for homework...where's time to read..uhhu.
Like ur opinion!!

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