Reforming Economics Education in India: Pluralistic Perspectives
16-17th April, 2022
Economics often emerges as a favoured discipline of choice for students during their education at the undergraduate level in India. This is apparent from the number of students enrolled in Economics programmes in universities and colleges. This heightened quest for Economics as a disciplinary choice is partly connected to prevalent perceptions of career prospects that possibly emerge after an Economics education.
However, there is some disconnect between such perceptions and the underlying reality. Firstly, there are variations in the “quality” of the teaching and learning process in Economics. These are partly traceable to the diversity of Indian education systems that is often transformed into layered deprivation outside the major urban centres, principally due to the pattern of funding and administration of higher education in India. Secondly, Economics programmes in India often rely on “standard” textbooks disproportionately and tend to de-emphasise grounded economic concerns. Thirdly, many institutions in India either follow an “outdated” curriculum or uncritically follow metropolitan cues on education in Economics. As a result, it is arguable that the potential of Economics as a means to comprehend and progressively transform society through solutions that emerge from academic pursuits remains inadequately realised.
In an overall sense, Economics education in India is, by and large, deficient in pluralism in terms of course contents, pedagogic methods, and representation of students and teachers from diverse backgrounds. The course contents in most Economics courses in India are based on the notion that there are a limited number of economic principles which, when “mastered” and “applied”, allow one to “explain” all economic and social phenomena. Such a notion tends to lead designers of Economics curricula to opt for “mainstream” Economics and marginalise heterodox traditions in Economics. The intricacies of methodological nuances and historical debates in the discipline of Economics remain elusive to most students, and at best, depend on the teacher’s own knowledge of such topics. The lack of diverse economic traditions and alternative approaches within the curriculum disables students to deal with economic issues that can be vexing as a consequence. The pool of economists that is trained through such an inadequate curriculum, is hampered in its ability to make significant contributions to actual economic problems specific to India. A broader curriculum is expected to develop students’ critical faculties, and simultaneously enhance their ability to craft solutions for real world problems. Over time it may even lead to an authentic redevelopment of the discipline of Economics.
Further, there is a need to construct alternative teaching and learning processes of Economics in the classroom and beyond, through real-life projects that reach out to different strata in society. To this end, collaboration among various participants in the teaching and learning process (principally teachers and students) is required to revamp the manner in which Economics education is undertaken in India. For instance, the striking absence of Indian context in foundational course textbooks hinders the teaching and learning process of students from their formative university years. Courses such as Labour Economics, Agricultural Economics, History of Economic Thought, Regional Economics, Comparative Economic Development remain elusive to students as they do not figure or remain ‘optional’ in many Economics programmes in India. Besides, the dialectical links of Economics to other social and natural sciences are possibly not accorded due emphasis in many programmes at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. No doubt, this exacerbates the current inability to concretely comprehend and respond to economic realities in India and elsewhere.
Therefore, some prominent challenges confronting the present landscape of Economics education in India are: How does one redesign the Economics curriculum so that economists can consequently contribute to the explanation and resolution of the complex social issues in ways that are more viable? Can a pluralistic Economics curriculum be designed that addresses not only the diversity of the teaching learning process across India, but also takes into account the diverse needs of students in terms of understanding the subject, job prospects and their contribution to solving economic issues by drawing on the tools provided by a renewed Economics?
The two-day conference being jointly organised by the Economics Department of Satyawati College, University of Delhi and Rethinking Economics India Network is envisaged to answer a few of these questions and include concrete curricular and pedagogic recommendations to enhance the teaching and learning process in Economics in India.
Day 1: 16th April, 2022 (Saturday)
Session 1 | 2:00-3:30 PM IST / 10:30-12:00 AM CET
Inaugural Keynote Address by Prabhat Patnaik (Professor Emeritus, JNU)
Session 2 | 4:00-6:00 PM IST / 12:30-2:30 PM CET
Critical perspectives on current teaching and learning processes of Indian Economics education.
Session Chair: Dipa Sinha, Ambedkar University, Delhi
Pluralism in Economics: Competing Views by Alex M Thomas, Azim Premji University
History and historiography in the pedagogy of economics by Meeta Kumar (Miranda House, Delhi University)
Teaching tax theory at the undergraduate level by A Sunil Dharan (Delhi University)
Accumulation and distribution in Joan Robinson by Rahul Menon (Independent Researcher)
The economic thought of Babasaheb Dr. B R Ambedkar by Bibek Rajak (Dyal Singh College, Delhi University)
Session 3 | 6:30-8:30 PM IST / 3:00-5:00 PM CET
Relevance of international debates on pluralism in Economics education to the Indian context.
Session Chair: Surajit Majumdar (Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University)
A political economy syllabus for 21st Century by T.M. Thomas (Deshbandhu College, Delhi University)
A political economy approach to Agrarian Studies by Shantanu De Roy (TERI Institute of Advanced Studies)
Epistemic inquiry into application of economic thinking to healthcare by Shalini Rudra (University of Warwick)
Keynes in the undergraduate macroeconomics classroom by Krishnakumar S (Delhi University)
Formulating a course on history of economic thought by Ajay Ranjan Singh (Kirorimal College, Delhi University)
Day 2: 17th April, 2022 (Sunday)
Session 4 | 1:30-3:30 PM IST / 10:00-12:00 AM CET
Case studies of extant pluralistic Economics education in India.
Session Chair: Ajit Sinha (Thapar University)
Teaching economics with reason: Contesting economic rationality as given by Nandini Dutta (Miranda House, Delhi University)
What should an Indian economics student know: reflections from curriculum making in APU by Rahul De (Azim Premji University)
Pluralism in undergraduate economics education at Christ University: Hits and Misses by Padmini Ram (CHRIST University)
Teaching economics to non-economists: A case on economics in urban practise by Amogh Arakali (IIHS)
REIN Curriculum Report (Interim Update) by Rethinking Economics India Network
Session 5 | 4:00-6:00 PM IST / 12:30-2:30 PM CET
Designing alternatives for and prospects of pluralistic Economics education in India.
Session Chair: Arjun Jayadev (Azim Premji University)
Designing a pluralist curriculum: key aspects and potential pitfalls by Surbhi Kesar (SOAS London)
Economics in terms of actual people and issues by Monami Sinha (Delhi University)
Towards a feminist pedagogy in Indian economics education by Sara Bardhan (Pandit Deendayal Energy University)
A case for inclusion of a course in gender economics by Radhika Lobo (Vidhyashilp University) & Anima Chowdhury (ind.)
Session 6 | 6:30-8:00 PM IST / 3:00-4:30 PM CET
Closing Keynote Address by Sunanda Sen (Retd. Professor, JNU)
A note to the attendees:
Upon registering, the attendees will recieve a Zoom link. The zoom link will be valid for both days of the conference, across six sessions. Attendees are requested join the sessions as per schedule detailed above. All queries related to the conference can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Query_Curriculum Conference 2022".
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