Our society has amazing technologies. Social media keep us connected; robots build our cars; and Netflix beams non-stop entertainment to devices of our choosing. Ready-cooked meals and Fortnite are in every home.
Yet, for all our sophistication, we have still not escaped what Thomas Hobbes wrote in 1640, that: “… the life of man (is), solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”
At the heart of all modern human activity still lies the inescapable truth that it is all a constant contest to feed all our wants and needs amidst a scarcity of resources. That is the field of Economics. How, amidst this scarcity, do we go about deciding what to make; how to make it; and how goods and services are distributed to whom.
There is good reason why the world’s most prestigious universities, some of them over 400 years old, such as Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, Harvard or Princeton, recommend students start with a liberal arts degree called the PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics). These subjects deal with the “grand themes of society” – they explain how the world that we live in really works before students decide what role they want to play in this world.
In public discussions on the most pressing global issues, the precedents for each of these flashpoints had some foundation in economic issues, including:
- Climate change;
- The rise of autocrats;
- Nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran;
- Global terrorism;
- The ascendancy of China and Russia;
- Instability in the Middle East;
- Refugee crises; and
- Deciding who gets to make, distribute or receive a Covid-19 vaccine , all of which are significantly determined by economic principles and our understanding of economic justice and fairness.
The South African CAPS curriculum has done learners a great disservice by bundling Economics into one course with Accounting and Entrepreneurship. Each of these are very distinct areas of enquiry. Economics teaches us how to see the trees from the woods, to get the 10,000-foot view of the world, while Accounting can now be done by pretty mundane software…
There are many sub-fields and careers in Economics:
- Why become an actuary or accountant who runs the numbers, when as an economist, you can set the policies and ideals that create these numbers?
- Development economists deal with issues of poverty, hunger and other measures of living standards. Many of them work in far-flung and exotic corners of the globe for large agencies such the United Nations, Oxfam and others.
- Wall Street and investment firms globally rely heavily on their economists to model future market conditions (and pay them very handsomely).
- Economic journalists cover the new iPhone release in Silicon Valley and the Tokyo robotics exhibitions.
- Governments rely on economists to fine-tune policy decisions and their impact on society.
- Applied economists work as management consultants earning huge fees helping the world’s largest companies set their strategy and optimise their production. I am yet to meet an economist who goes hungry!
In June 2020, only three students sat in the Cape Town Cambridge International exam centre on the day Economics was written. Learners are wary of the subject because they do not know the subject. This is one of the best kept secrets, that such an amazing subject with its formidable career opportunities has not yet been discovered by the masses. In part, because of a misplaced fear of what they don’t know.
In terms of complexity and difficulty, Economics is significantly easier to master than Mathematics or Physics, for instance. The Cambridge IGCSE, AS and A -Level syllabi all split into a section on micro-economics and another on macro. The former looks at the household and the firm and uses some technical skills with graphs and data sets. Macro, dealing with the role of governments, international trade, and poverty and development, is more of a social science with concepts and stories to tell.
Our Cambridge division at The Chapel Lane Academy has an excellent track record with teaching Economics and its applied discipline, Business Studies, and our learners have obtained distinctions with high regularity. We also do private tutoring of CAPS Economics from Gr 8 to Grade 12 through our tutoring division, Flip A Switch Tutoring (FAST). Demonstrating that you had the intellectual curiosity to take high-level Economics at school and excelling in it will most certainly set you apart in your future university applications.
These courses are taught by Yale-educated Dr Charl du Plessis, who uses his career as academic, entrepreneur and manager/consultant in many industries across different parts of the world to make for stimulating class discussions and learning.
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