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The Economics problem

With the country caught up in the cut-off point discussions, little attention was paid to the class XII results.

The results were nothing new. Like always, our students recorded the worst performance in Economics and, as always, the issue did not get much attention. No study appears to have been done to assess the consistent under performance in the subject, nor is this trend acknowledged as a problem. The shortage of economists in the country remains as much a non-issue.

In the absence of a study on the subject, educationists cite several factors. The subject’s difficulty, its status as an optional subject and teaching quality are among the main reasons for the poor performance. Some believe that this is a consequence of a systemic failure, where schools are assessed and ranked by the students’ performance. Ratings for teachers hinge on the marks students score and there are reports that some schools discourage students from taking up the subject. Some schools don’t even offer it as an option. When policies, schools and teachers do not prioritise the subject and make learning relevant, students cannot be blamed for not giving the subject much importance.

Such disturbing developments our schools are resorting to are a result of our obsession with ranking schools by academic performance. With the curriculum for Economics under revision, it is perhaps time to question the rationale of offering these subjects as electives and to even rank schools and students.

The government has made a start in bringing about major reforms in the education sector. While its impact would be felt later, the government’s courage to implement change amid criticisms deserves appreciation. It has eased the financial burden on parents across the country and for a change, both students and teachers looked forward to this academic session.

In the same spirit that the government has implemented the changes, it must now question the relevance of ranking schools and teachers based on academic performance. It must assess why subjects such as Economics are offered as an elective even though the public consultations on education blue print showed a preference for the subject to be offered as compulsory.

Even without a study to show, the government is vehement that its pledges are the priorities of the society. Would it be as passionate when the issue isn’t a pledge? The government, instead of questioning questions on national issues and taking offence should focus on removing the archaic measures that hinder our children’s learning. Today, a teacher describes Economics, a subject relevant to people from all walks of life and in policy making as not only an optional but also an orphan subject. At tertiary institutes, it is reported that students from top performing schools fail in Economics.

Trends such as these should question the society where it has gone wrong. Whether it is a political pledge or not, education must respond to the needs of a changing society.

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