By Aamna Tayyab, student of Corvinus University of Budapest
“I wish instead of all the useless information school gave us, they taught us how to do taxes.”
Now that is a common thing that circulates around us these days - students bashing the education system because they think organic chemistry is useless. That is why social sciences are the best career path for those who feel the need to go for an interactive field and want to know more about how the society functions. As a part of International Relations BA, I dare saying that we are exposed to many different concepts and ideas and even if choosing the right future career is not easy we truly have a variety of options. We often find ourselves in discussions with our friends from other majors about political science, or for example we try dealing with Prof. Attila Melegh’s challenging questions regarding sociology.
With everything different on our plates from mild philosophy courses to overwhelming seminars in the first semester, we have this one course that I personally found the most challenging of them all: Introduction to Economics. This course was opened to the International Relations students only and was taught by Mr. Gábor Vigvári, assistant professor, PhD and lecturer at Corvinus University of Budapest. As a student I know this for a fact that “the better the teacher, the better the subject” and I can say this was one of the most entertaining and well-taught courses of the semester. Contrary to popular opinion that economics is only a technical subject and is only taught through one way communication with the teacher writing the questions on the board and the students copying them down, this was one of the most interactive and fun classes with activities that made us be part of the economic policies we were trying to understand. The subject was designed especially for International Relations students with no background in studying economics and a critical take on policy questions rather than numerical type questions. This forms a basis for the Comparative Political Economy course in the second semester and for International Economics and International Political Economics in the second and third year.
We had a little “talk” with our teacher of the week, Mr. Gábor Vigvári, who answered some questions any new student would have in mind for the teachers of the introductory courses of the first semester. His take on the subject is just our cup of tea - he thinks that economics can act as an interdisciplinary science for many of us with a technical approach to other introductory courses like political science with its rationalist approach.
“Economics brings a different knowledge to students because the first year has only basic social sciences and introductory subjects. Economics gives the insight of how society works and many people forget economics is actually a social science. It is not devaluation but many scientists would think that economics is more scientific than other social sciences though I do not agree with that – I think economics only gives a technical approach to other theoretical courses and provides an interdisciplinary basis for other subjects.”
Mr. Gábor Vigvári thinks that it is more fun to teach students by giving them challenging questions as it gives him an incentive to make the students understand the economic structures better. He thinks that generally these courses should be interactive.
“There are students from many different cultures in one class and they might not be very open to ask questions or to be active in class. Students might think that arguing with the teacher is not an option which is problematic because if they do not question teachers, they will not be able to grasp the concepts in a better way. I do not want my classes to be a one way communication therefore I try to bring up more policy questions which can be debatable and make my classes more interactive. The further you get in your education, the more you should focus on developing practical skills and that is what I aim to do. It is more of a knowledge-based subject and I want the students to be able to understand the key concepts of economics. I do not want to be too ambitious and say that I have bigger expectations from my students, it is only a basic course therefore I would say I expect my students to understand what is going on in their countries after they read, let’s say, a newspaper or when they want to do taxes and know what happens and how. This is why this introductory knowledge is very essential because I teach three courses in the university and I see them as a module although we do not have those here. But it is important to get familiar with this knowledge in first year so students can use this later in the upcoming semesters.”
Many of the people I know ask me the same question when I tell them that I have to take economics as an International Relations student. They ask if economics is really relevant in this field and I think it is very important to be able to analyze things from an economic perspective. Mr. Gábor Vigvári agrees with me and says it is important for International Relations students to be able to analyze the international affairs in terms of economics.
“I drive my students to think critically about the policy questions I have in my assignments. Those are debatable questions and there is no right answer if the students are able to justify their answers on the basis of the knowledge they have gained in class. All international problems and conflicts have some economic aspects for instance, Trade war, migration, global production and even current affairs considering the Virus outbreak in China and how to analyze all these paths with economics.”
For all these reasons I highly recommend this course for the first year students. It is the best one to have the study groups, the never ending debates and the adrenaline rush of questioning yourself to change the answers just before you upload your assignment to Moodle. The professors generally are very kind to have their office hours dedicated to our questions and in this case I have spent a lot of time questioning and clarifying all the doubts about the parts I was stuck at. You don’t need to be good at mathematics to take this course; the policy questions will play a major role for you in learning the basic economic structures and you can always mention your opinion which, for most of us, is the best part.