Economics Education and Development Some Benchmarks For Students


Education plays an essential role in economics development, and one of the important explanatory factors for the differences in living standards between countries is the greater or lesser historical precocity of educational progress. If we consider continental countries of comparable size and weight such as the United States, Russia, India or China, the fact that the former has become by far the world’s leading economic power is linked to the establishment of ‘a generalized primary economics education system from the 19th century, then secondary and tertiary in the first part of the 20th century. The early democratization of education in the United States is one of the reasons for their rapid development, as was also the case for European countries and their offspring overseas: Scandinavian countries, Germanic countries (Germany, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland),

We will first examine the historical education / development links, then the evolution in the United States before the Second World War, before considering the specific case of the democratization of higher education through the GI Bill of 1944.

The pioneering work of Mincer (1958), Schultz (1963) and Becker (1964) showed the role and specificity of human capital (1), the importance of training in explaining the income of individuals (2) , while education as an engine of economic growth has been more recently analyzed by Roomer, Lucas (3) , Mania or Barrow (4) . Other authors like Linder (1994) insist on an inverse causality, the increase in income having favored the progress of education, even if we can consider that the effects and the causes are intertwined here, the latter being both the cause. and consequences of the first.

The development of mass economics education is linked to growth mainly through the ability to master and adopt technical processes, even if education, for example of the Humanities (Letter, History, Philosophy, etc.) has little relation to technique, the link is indirect, because the teaching of techniques is in a way a by-product of mass education, through the intermediary of all logical teaching (physics, chemistry, mathematics, life sciences, etc.) and vocational or specialized educational establishments. We can thus establish a simple diagram, but solid, verified by historical experience

Early mass economics education – Widespread technical mastery – Long term economic tuition growth – High standards of living

Factors of Economics Educational Progress

But if the role of education is hardly contested in growth, where does it come from that some countries developed it before others for a long time education was the sole responsibility of parents, in Greek and Roman societies for example, where the authorities required this contribution from them, and of course at their own expense. The biblical injunction to teach children to read and understand the Torah (5), and therefore to observe it, is reflected among the Hebrews as one of the first forms of education for all. Curricula, teachers’ timetable, class size, disciplinary measures, all of this is discussed in the Talmud (6). Schools administered by public authorities are established, but not free, not financed by them, except for orphans and the poor.

Apart from this distant origin, education remained mostly confined to the home, until the advent of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Laws imposing compulsory schooling then appeared in the German states and Austria-Hungary (7), as well as in the British colonies in America, notably among the Puritans in Massachusetts (8). The French Revolution, under Robespierre and Saint Just, advocates, without being able to set it up, a public education, which would already be free, secular and compulsory. Thomas Paine, then active revolutionary in France and French citizen, Girondins delegate to the Convention, writes in this sense

“Ignorance will be banished from generations to come, and the number of poor people will be reduced, because their capacities, thanks to education, will be higher. A nation under good government should not allow anyone to go uneducated. It is only monarchical and aristocratic governments that require ignorance to consolidate.

For education levels in the 19th century, Germany came first with 77% primary school enrollment rate in 1830, followed by the Scandinavian countries, 66%, the United States, 56%, England, 41%, France, 39%, Japan, around 30%. Countries like Russia, Brazil, India hovered around 4% at this time (Easterlin, 2000). England made elementary school compulsory in 1870 and secondary school free for all in 1944.

The Protestantism is well regarded by authors like Easterlin (2000) as one of the root causes of economics educational progress:

“These 19th century differences in educational attainment are the product of trends dating back to the 16th century, long before the beginnings of modern economics growth, trends linked in part to the Protestant Reformation, and the insistence on the need for every individual to to be able to read the Bible himself (Cipolla, 1969, Easterlin, 1981). Martin Luther was also the first to advocate the need for intervention by public authorities in education, and in particular the promulgation of laws requiring schooling. Among the countries of Western Europe and their overseas creations, England’s relatively low rank may in part reflect the fact that Anglican Protestant doctrine has remained like Roman Catholic doctrine, without the emphasis on reading the Bible, characteristic of other Protestant sects. … In England, it is the minority of non-conformists who are at the forefront of education, and in the United States it is the northern states, populated and largely dominated at the start by these same dissident sects, which are characterized by a high level of economics education. ”

Thus, it would not be so much the Protestant ethic itself that favored capitalist economics development, as Max Weber described it, but part of this ethic, the emphasis on the necessary literacy, and therefore economics education, which would have promoted economic development in Protestant countries.

A second factor would be humanism and the influence of enlightenment. The enlightened monarchies of the 18th century thus tried to reduce crime and promote civic virtues by developing education. The influence of the Italian jurist Cesare Beccaria, with his Treatise on Delicts and Penalties (“Tattoo die delete e dell penne”, 1764), aimed at preventing crime through economics education, was considerable throughout Europe.

The ideas of enlightenment are in France the essential element of economics educational progress:

“Humanism preached the possibility of the ultimate improvement of humanity, and thus pushed for a vision favorable to mass economics education” (Easterly) …

“Ultimately, the French dedicated themselves to ideas derived from humanism, more than to those of Roman Catholicism or Protestant theologies, a development which had profound educational consequences” (That and Adams, 1964). More visit here.



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