Rebuilding India 16

Reorient Economics Education

Economics is the basis of life. Sound economics is the pre-requisite for the meaningful functioning of the societies. Ancient civilizations must have followed certain basic principles of economics, as otherwise they could not have continued. This is true more in the case of the successful civilizations such as India and China, which have flourished over several centuries since the earlier times.   

All the educational institutions and text books teach us that the economic theories and concepts are the products of the West; and the economic development began with the Industrial Revolution during the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe. They called the economics that they presented as “modern”, purely based on their limited European experience and world views.

They did this as they considered themselves as the superior race in the world. All others were inferior and hence their history, practices, beliefs and ways of life had to be thrown out for they contained nothing useful. The colonial masters introduced the Macaulay education system during the 1830s with the ulterior motive of producing students without any national orientation. Unfortunately even after sixty seven years of Independence, we are still following a largely west-centric economics education.

As a result, all our discourses at the academic and policy making levels are based on the Western theories, concepts and approaches. Meanwhile studies of the economic histories of different countries undertaken since the 1980s reveal many new facts. They all conclude that India and China - and not the Western countries - were economically more powerful than the rest of the World before the Industrial Revolution.

Several studies note that the economic emergence of the European countries was predominantly due to the colonial exploitation. Maddison notes that India and China remained the two most prosperous nations for most of the time from the ancient periods. The details also show that these two countries remained the most sustainable economies during the last two millennia.

But none of these studies finds a place in our text books. Nor they are discussed in class rooms. With the result, even many of the University professors remain unaware of these important findings. It is not the history alone, they are not even aware of the contemporary realities.

Colonial exploitation and the subsequent rule by the British destroyed Indian economy and her strong foundations. With the result India became poor and underdeveloped. The alien interference made our country largely illiterate and social systems very weak.

But today India is emerging as the most promising nation in the World. During the latest year India has become the fastest growing economy overtaking China. India has achieved this in spite of serious difficulties and limitations. Policy makers over the years have always tried to follow the western approaches and there remains lack of proper understanding of the realities.

Hence India’s emergence as a highly potential economy in about six and half decades is almost without parallel in the contemporary history. From being one of the poorest countries, it has emerged as the third largest economy in the World. All these achievements are in spite of the unsuitable theories and approaches guiding our policy making circles over the past decades.

The world witnessed the collapse of both the Western economic ideologies namely communism and market capitalism in less than three decades. Hence there is a huge vacuum before them and they do not know where to go. They are beginning to understand that their economic theories lack foundations. 

At the same India has been rising slowly, but steadily over the past decades. There is no doubt that there are serious problems in the economy. But at the same time it is clear that the economy has been moving forward. The difficulty in India is not with the economy, but with the people who are closely dealing with economics.  

India is a unique economy, with strong foundations. We have special factors driving the economy, with most of them are special to our country. But the educational institutions fail to notice, study, understand and recognize them, as they still believe that India may not have anything original of her own to offer.

With the result, the students and scholars who come out of the universities have no idea about the ‘functioning economy.’ The bureaucrats and policy makers who frame policies for our country are the ‘successful products’ of such a system. This is a serious problem in Independent India today.

Our education system still believes that the Western theories and approaches are the only way to understand, explain and analyze the Indian realities. Hence they have nothing original to offer to the improvement of our economy, as they do not have a proper understanding of the Indian situation.

Field studies undertaken over the last one and half decades reveal a completely different India, with her own our unique functioning systems. Limited studies undertaken by a few reputed western universities and research bodies during the last few years also confirm the unique strengths of the Indian economic system. But our universities do not even discuss them.

Indian family system is special in many ways. Family system is the core strength of India. Families are not just social or cultural units, they play the dominant role in the functioning of the Indian economy. Our economy is safe and going strong, as it is largely driven by families. But how many of us know it?

Do the education system acknowledge and recognize this fact? Our text books contain only the theories based on the individualistic approaches, as prevalent in the Western societies. They do not reflect the ground realities here. Hence their utility is very limited for us. 

When we talk to people, they acknowledge the influence of families in all their activities. All the successful entrepreneurs admit the contribution of their families to their success. They passionately narrate the sacrifices of their mothers, fathers, grandparents, family members and the society at large. But do we find at least a mention of these factors in any of our academic discussions?

Even a cursory look at the functioning of the global economies during the recent periods would reveal many truths. The western economic approaches have been continuously failing. At the same time, India has been rising. The global economic crisis during 2008 affected countries different parts of the world, though its influence was severe in the Western world. But India remained one of the least affected nations.  

There must be some strong reasons for this. What are they?  What are the factors that protect us from the global crisis and make our country to continuously move on?  In spite of so much of evidence pointing to our strengths, our education system refuse to study the ground realities. So we not only ignore the historical facts, but also the contemporary functioning systems.

Hence our economics education is almost completely away from the realities. In spite of having many reputed economists in our midst and built well known institutions specializing in different aspects of the economics, we have largely failed to study the Indian economy from the national perspectives. With the result we do not have any Indian economic theories. We have not attempted to develop at all.

Hence at least now when India is emerging at the global level, we need to give a new orientation to our economics education. It should look at our economy from the native perspectives, understand it and try to contribute to its development based on our core strengths. 

( Yuva Bharati, Vivekananda Kendra, Aug.2015)