Let me say at once that my special interest is in the teaching of Economics at the university level. I would plead, as Lord Robbins does, that Economics is for grown-ups to learn, and I would leave out the subject altogether from the pre-university course. Even at the university, since we have two degrees, unlike London or Cambridge where there is only one, I would concentrate more on the second degree, i.e. MA; for it is there that I would have specialization.
At the undergraduate level, Economics is necessarily to be taught along with other subjects, and even though it may be opted for as a major, the kind of training that is expected is necessarily of a general character. The object here would be to provide students with a general knowledge of the various types of economy and the basic tools of economic analysis. Acquaintance with standard texts on the major branches of Economic science together with a dose of Economic history and an appreciation of the course of development of the Indian economy would be enough at this stage. So economics of a country is important.
For some this will be part of a system of liberal education which will stand them in good stead in any walk of life they might choose; for others the would-be specialists it will be a preparation for undergoing the later specialized course. For the first type of teaching, the universities need faithful teachers; it does not matter if they are just pedestrian. Much more care has to be taken for the teaching of Economics at the postgraduate level. And it is at this level, I suspect, that we are failing miserably. Anybody who has an eye to see and who has had occasion to examine postgraduate answer-papers in Economics of our universities or to interview candidates for jobs requiring special competence in Economics will have felt that something is frightfully wrong about the teaching of Economics at the postgraduate level. It is no accident that some of our best boys go out to foreign universities for the study of Economics just after their graduation here. So economics of a country is important.
Is there anything wrong about our syllabus? Do we, or do we not teach the right kind of things in our Economics courses? This is the sort of question that Lord Robbins and Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders ask in general and Mrs. Robinson asks in the special context of overseas students. I would not argue that we have a perfect syllabus in our universities. Far from that. There is a lot that can be done to improve the content of our postgraduate course. In particular I have a feeling that teaching of Economics, as it is at present in most of our universities, is problem-oriented and not, as it should be, principle-oriented. I have had many quarrels with my colleagues as also with the authorities on this score in the past, and I still do not see why, given the limited time at our disposal, we should not emphasize principles rather than specific problems.
There is no end of problems national and international, and it is only a tiny fraction that you can do justice to, if you take problems for your analysis in the classroom. On the other hand, if you take the boys through ‘principles’ and bring in problems only as illustrations, you give the boys basic knowledge which they can apply to the analysis of any problem that may come their way as they take up the specialist’s jobs. The coverage under ‘principles’ must, however, be wide; not only ‘pure theory’, including the theory of growth, but also Money, International Trade, Public Finance, Industrial Organization, etc. have to be there in the syllabus.
Considering the advance that has taken place in each of these fields, one may be sure that mere ‘principles’ would be enough to occupy even the most serious of our students over a period of two years. So economy of a economics is most important.