Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Quo vadis SGH?

Totally out of the blue, almost three weeks ago, on 22 July the Senate Curriculum Commission congregated and… I don’t know if unexpectedly, but passed a resolution on the changeover in the curriculum of Bachelor’s and Master’s studies (I start the latter in October so the reforms will affect me). The heated discussions about the direction my university should evolve have been held in public for months and the next step was just the par for the course, but… But I somehow deluded myself that the bureaucracy-stricken structure of my school would put off implementation of the reform, all in all it didn’t happen. Sadly I can only fall in with the scholars, students and other members of our academic community who disapproved of the drafts of changes, claiming Warsaw School of Economics was drifting towards a vocational school. So once again I sympathise with the ones who call out Nie róbcie z SGH zawodówki!.

The modification of the curriculum can’t be rather categorised as common-sense-based. The course of studies in the academy of economics which has pretences to be a member of elite and wants to compete with the best schools of economics abroad can be simplified in the way it is being done. Why were the advanced micro- and macroeconomics erased from the curriculum of Master’s studies? Is the managerial economics going to substitute for it? What was the main reason for crossing out specified specialisations from the curriculum? Should we pick the lectures on our own, yes, this is the step towards more freedom, but how about the specialisation note which appears on the diploma?

On Bachelor’s studies the changes will take a heavy toll on the knowledge of the graduates. Just take a first glance. Even in the times of communism, when Warsaw School of Planning and Statistics was called a “Red Fortress” (PL: Czerwona Twierdza), the distinguishing mark of the school was teaching two foreign languages on relatively high level. The current graduates of BA studies had to go through five semester long course of “language I” (the candidates are expected to have the command of this language on B2 level) and six semester long course of “language II” (here candidates should be on B1 level). The quality of teaching and all the stereotypes linked to it are the topic for the separate endless post, but let’s focus on the shot in foot, which is cutting down the length of both courses to four semester. Altogether 180 learning hours less than before! And the grasp of languages represented by students of SGH, although relatively good still leaves a lot to be desired. Nevertheless the command of two languages has given us the edge over the graduates of other universities. Why do the authorities want to take away one of our assets? The students will have the opportunity to carry on learning under the pool of learning hours and credit system, maybe it will be better to let them take the matters into their own hands? Why aren’t some courses like sociology or economic history compulsory. The proponents of the reform pointed out they’re not necessary or the students should have been given more freedom in making choices. After two years which elapsed since I’ve completed those courses I have conflicting feeling – many freshmen students find those lectures tedious and superfluous and treat as a ball and chain on their way to career and here we reach the heart of the matter – graduates of the prestigious Warsaw School of Economics should apart from strictly professional knowledge have broad mind, horizons, during their studies they should develop the passion to explore and the habit of critical looking at economic phenomena from different perspectives, taking into account psychology. A modern-day economist is not just a mathematician whose over-reliance on models and patterns leads up to bungled forecasts, it’s rather an open-minded person who has a thorough understanding of psychology, social factors influencing the economy, historical background which underlies some stances and be aware of many more things, unlike the callous traders closed in the dealing room who lump together Poland and Hungary when it comes to financial stability of both countries.

I don’t want my school to churn out graduates lacking general education. Narrow-minded people as far as I observed are more likely to try to outwit the others when it comes to financial matters and are more likely to be ignorant of obvious phenomena – they also led to the current crisis, they fuelled stock bubbles disregarding fundamental factors and elementary laws of economics. The two excellent examples of something what was missed out on are LTCM and the current investment results of Superfund (hedge fund managed by computer system operating on the basis of econometrical model)

For a conclusion – do the today’s drop-offs on stock exchanges herald the deeper correction? If so, I wouldn’t be surprised…


Michael Dembinski said...

Narrow-minded people as far as I observed are more likely to try to outwit the others when it comes to financial matters and are more likely to be ignorant of obvious phenomena – they also led to the current crisis, they fuelled stock bubbles

So very true. But are they narrow-minded because they had an education focused on economic outcome - or because they were born narrow-minded?

Bartek Usniacki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.