In the final part of my review of the Developments in Economics Education conference, here are a few thoughts on the three keynote speeches. Keynotes can really set the tone for a conference, as they are often the only time all the delegates are together and I have to say these speeches were excellent.
Andy Ross from the Government Economic Service spoke on Educating Economists for Government. The GES is the single largest employer of economists in the country and since 1995 their numbers have tripled, showing that economists really are taking over the government. He urged economics educators to focus on the practical and policy applications of economics, to produce a new generation of economists who could not only write the notes, but read the music of economics.
David Hendry is a Professor of Economics at Nuffield College, Chairman of the Economics Department, University of Oxford and one of the most widely cited academics in the field of econometrics. He spoke on the topic of Teaching Undergraduate Econometrics and it was a classic example of taking a highly technical subject and making it entertaining, even for non-specialists. The key point he made was that technological change has enabled major advances in the fields of economic modelling and econometrics, but that in teaching it to undergraduates, they still need to be shown that is has practical implications and is not just a mathematical exercise.
Tim Harford is the FT’s ‘Undercover Economist’ and presenter of the BBC’s ‘Trust Me, I’m an Economist’ and he spoke on How can economists grab the attention of students, and keep it? Tim showed how economic principles can be applied to your love life, to help you save money in coffee shops and that giving children in developing countries basic improvements in healthcare, will improve their education outcomes more than aid that provides books, computers or foreign teachers. He challenged economics educators to use such examples in the classroom to engage students.
Audio, video and images from the keynotes will be available from the Economics Network site over the coming weeks.