Educational Systems and Transitional Economies

Will I do this justice at 2:06 am on a Friday/ Saturday night?  Probably not.  However, once again the idea is to begin to formulate ideas, from which I can extrapolate later.

It has frequented been acredited that higher institutions of education have faciliated the technological sofistication of certain economies.  As Richard R. Nelson puts it, we can juxtapose two groups of advanced economies (A: USA, Germany) with (B: United Kingdom, France, Japan).  I also think it is appropriate to add other “3rd world countries”, or what I would title “2nd world” or “middle” countries such as (A: Brazil) and (B: Argentina).

Essentially, group A places the emphasis on the practicalities of the learning while group B stresses the importance of the theoretical foundations.  Each approach has its strengths depending on global economic trends.

At UdeSA, the professor I admired the most was definately Hallak.  He stressed the practicalities of a given work.  What can I apply from a theory to make it legible to the layman?  Unforunately, in Group B, the perspection is typically that you are “selling out” or “cheapening” a work when you place your focus on the practicality of a project.  However, when you clarify a complicated point, or when you adequately describe yourself in a simple way, you actually display mastery in a concept of a given idea.

The weakness in Group A in the reliance on secondary sources.  I see it every day.  Many average joe’s (and even scholars) are satisfied with Bill O’Reilly’s version of the American economy.  It is rare to consult primary sources the majority of the time.  We strive for pragatism at the expense of precision.  We train for the task, as opposed to academia.

Even though this is “productive”, we can run into problems when the economy moves into transition.  It is actually interesting to watch someone explain a complicated point coherently (maybe it is even funny to read this?).  I feel as though we are trying to combine pieces of the puzzle from so many fields, that we fail to have a mastery in anything.  Maybe we do not need to exactly memorize all the formulas in International Trade Theory, but we should know how to apply them, and definitely feel comfortable incorporating them in a work.

Also, when we train for a job, we must allow be able to branch back out to the base in order to re-train for another task or assignment.  There is definitely room for improvement for both groups.

Lastly, it is interesting to observe the trends of Research & Development in certain countries.  Essentially, current realities are a reflection of policies that have existed pairs of decades or centuries before, regardless of major economic events or wars.  The exception is the United States.  Mid-century, the government invested heavily in R&D, which favored both military and civilian ends.  It allowed private companies to develop products because we funded “broader” research.  An example of this would be semiconductors.

However, over the course of time, the US has chipped away at funded for “frivolous” broader research and tried to pinpoint benchmarks for military research, that has less and less to do with creating an economic advantage for “American” companies.  One of the consequences of this is the erosion of “American” competiveness.  I could cite many other reasons for this, a) loss of the importance of the large American domestic market, b) “convergence” theories, c) a new global price equilibrium for natural resources, etc. etc.; however the systematic changes in R&D do have their influences.

What would be interesting to observe is if the US can make a major shift in R&D policy in the next decade, just as they did in the 1950’s.  As of yet, we have been one of the few countries that have been able to shed the engrained patterns of the past expenditures when it comes to R&D.  Maybe this was an anomaly or maybe this is can serve as hope that once again we can make a “mudança”.

Group A- second hand sources

in transition

patterns of R & D

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