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Economics education needs a reform, and it's all about the real world

Economic thinking has defined the mechanism of our world’s operations. Yet nowadays approach in economics education remains obsolete and irrelevant to the common people, especially youth generations. When referring to economics science, students often regard it as a highly theoretical and impractical subject. Most of this could be traced back to the sophisticated and merely academic approach in teaching economics.

Global Association of Economics Education’s Asia Office. Photo: LinkedIn

For centuries, since the very early ages of the economic field itself, the education of this subject has been deeply antique and conventional. "When common principles that navigate our daily life is treated as 'atomic particles,' it explains why economics remain unrelatable to the ordinary people," Le Dong Hai Nguyen, a member of the UK's Royal Economic Society commented. "We need to approach economics education with a common and pragmatic mind." Hai Nguyen is the Founder and Executive Director of the Global Association of Economics Education (GAEE), a global nonprofit advocating for the reform of economics education for youth generations.

According to Yahoo! Finance, this 501(c)(3) nonprofit recently launches a full-spectrum plan called "GAEE's Silk Road Plan" that aims to educate students in 18 countries the basis of economics, finance and entrepreneurship. "When introducing students to economic principles, rather than reciting the theories, we try to transform and relate it to the daily life," Nguyen said. "For example, seemingly complex economic concepts like opportunity costs are inseparable parts of our daily decision-making process." GAEE has applied the latest technology to maintain a current network of 1500 members in 8 countries through its GAEE-affiliated academic clubs, hackathons, workshops, and event. With the ambitious goal of expanding to 18 nations by 2021, the nonprofit expects to integrate economics education into daily life even more with the beta-staged GAEE's Home App, the first economics learning software for all PC and Mobile devices.

Junior economists across the globe currently study theories using textbooks that have barely changed since the last century. The principles are practiced on the same basis as traditional Newtonian science. Mainstream neoclassical economics values merely efficiency, businesses and extension, putting individuals over collectives. As a result, students are taught to ignore inequality and decimate ecological foundations for relentless economic growth- and the effects are serious.

Distribution of economic approaches in economics theory courses. Photo: Rethinking Economics NL

A study by Rethinking Economics last year indicated that the neoclassical approach is dominant within economics education. Fewer than 6% curricula covered real-world problems, from climate change to inequality, not to mention the lack of daily real-life economics principles. "This 'dead zones' of economics science requires a comprehensive revolution in the education of economics on a global scale," Hai Nguyen said. "Conventional textbooks have failed to address real-world problems, yet 6% of curricula is still sufficient to educate the youth generations the very fundamentals of this field." He hopes that this new approach in teaching economics would inspire more students to explore this field. "We believed that the awareness of these principles would make a positive impact not only on the youth's daily life but also on the reform of economic science in the future," he remarked.

We need an economics education system that does not fall behind the limitations of the Newtonian physics-style modeling two hundred years ago, one that equally focuses on the daily-life aspects and real-world economic system besides statistical mainstream economics. The world needs more organization like Global Association of Economics Education, Rethinking Economics and National Council on Economics Education.