What Kind of Economics Graduates Do We Want? A Constructive Critique of Hansen's Proficiencies Approach
In answer to the long-standing question, what kinds of knowledge and skills should economics majors master, Lee Hansen has advocated a proficiencies approach. According to this approach, the teaching and learning of economics undergraduates should be based on the attainment of (six) specified proficiencies. He has also proposed ways in which these competencies can be demonstrated. This paper outlines Hansen's proficiency approach and subjects it to critical evaluation. It finds that much of his scheme is highly admirable and worthy of support, even if its implementation would be difficult in resource-starved educational systems. However, it also finds other parts of his scheme to be disturbing, simplistic, narrow and dangerous. These deficiencies stem primarily from highly inadequate assumptions about the nature of economics as a discipline. The challenge in making the proficiencies approach more acceptable is to retain the valuable elements while discarding the objectionable. To this end, an amended list of (nine) expected proficiencies is proposed.
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