Improving economic literacy

Issue 15 - Jun 2008

Mukul G Asher & Amarendu Nandy

ASSOCHAM recently surveyed “faculty awareness” of 258 faculty members of various institutions granting Master in Business Administration (MBA) degrees across the country. The survey excluded the top-30 business schools.

The survey found that the vast majority of the faculty members were not aware of basic facts about the national and global economy. Nine out of ten faculty members were unaware of India’s GDP growth rate, and saving and investment rates for the latest year. Nearly all the survey participants could not state that India’s current external trade is over US$500 billion. Nine-tenths of the respondents were unaware about possible recession in the United States, let alone its implications for the Indian economy. The survey also found that most of the case studies and examples discussed in the class were outdated, and so were the recommended books and other references.

If this is the state of affairs for the faculty teaching MBA students, it is reasonable to infer that for undergraduate economics and business faculty across the country, the situation is unlikely to be better. More broadly, the wide gap between India’s top engineering and business schools which are internationally recognised, and the remaining thousands of these institutions with low educational quality is disconcerting, requiring urgent remedial actions

Inadequate awareness of basic facts and figures is a symptom of a more endemic dearth of financial and economic literacy among the wide sections of the society, including intellectuals, media-persons, politicians, policy-makers, and the bureaucracy. It is therefore not surprising that they do not exhibit an appropriate mental picture of India’s economic structure, its sources of growth and competitiveness, its vulnerabilities and challenges, and a nuanced understanding of the ways to advance India’s economic interests.

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