Dr. M L Ngullie
Associate Professor (Economics)
Many students walk into Economics class without any planning. After sometime, they realize their mistakes and want to turn back but by then they may be too late. They are compelled to hang on to the subject irrespective of whether they have the aptitude for it or not. They cannot switch to other subject for honours, at the same time they do not wish to offer General Course only. The result is, poor performance, followed by frustration and dissatisfaction. And finally, poor performance in academics, that could lessen their prospects of good employment in future. Obviously, having studied a subject, if one cannot excel in it, then it will naturally bring despair and frustration to the student.
There are 3 (2 compulsory and 1 optional) Quantitative papers (Mathematics oriented) in the Syllabus of undergraduate course in Arts. So, unless one is good in mathematics it is not possible to do well in this subject. Hence, if one is to opt for Economics, he should have a basic knowledge and ability in Mathematics. Unless one is prepared accordingly, he should not waste his time in opting for economics.
In modern times, mathematics is widely used as a language to explain and understand the economic principles and theories. By using quantitative methods, one is able to derive more accurate results in studying the economic problems. And therefore, seeing the advantage of using mathematics, of late, more and more economists are producing mathematical oriented text books. Thus, it becomes necessary for students to master the quantitative techniques (mathematics) before they embark on the study of the subject. The study of economics in the past was more theoretical like the fact that Adam Smith, the Father of Economics, did not use a single mathematics to express his wonderful ideas. So also students could study economics without mathematics then. But later on, the scholars began employing scientific techniques to study problems of economics which gave them more accurate results. This prompted the majority of the authors to write Economics books in mathematics.
Global as well as country level debate is on whether to turn economics into highly mathematical oriented subject so as to make it equivalent to pure science or not. While the debate is inconclusive, the general tendency is in favour of making mathematics an indispensable tool for study of economics. Under such situation, the student is left with no alternative but to acquire basic knowledge of mathematics so that he will be able to access the resources in the subject. Accordingly if one does not have the required ability for the subject, he should not opt for it so as to avoid unnecessary problems in the future.
Having said this, the most advisable course for a student aspiring to study economics is to do well in HSLC mathematics paper. At the 10+2 level also he should take up mathematics as main subject irrespective of whether he studies Arts or Science. For that matter the best preparatory course for BA Economics will be Class XI, XII Science with Mathematics and Physics. Why Physics here? The fact is that many economic principles are influenced by Physics, and so anyone having Physics background will have advantage of understanding the subject better.
This takes our discussion a bit further to the location of Economics Subject in the institutions. As indirectly mentioned above, the best combination for the subject being Economics, Mathematics and Physics, Economics should be located in Colleges where there is Science Stream. Accordingly, those who offer the above 3 subjects may be preferably awarded BSc Economics degree rather than BA Economics. For this, the University concerned need to take a very strong step. In the event Science Stream is not available in the institution, at least Mathematics Department and Statistics departments should be attached to Arts Colleges where BA Economics is offered. This will ensure provision of adequate number of teachers for Quantitative papers.
In conclusion it may be mentioned that a student needs not take up honours in Economics unless he is aiming for post graduate studies and also to settle for academic profession. For the rest of the students, pass course is enough.