It is perhaps timed to coincide with the 2009 BETT show, but OFSTED have produced a new report on the development of VLEs within schools and colleges in the UK. There is a brief feature here from BBC news and this is the link to the downloadable version of the report. To be quite honest, having slogged my way through it I would spend your time doing something else.read more...»
The Economics team at Loreto College in Manchester have started their own departmental blog and it seems they have very quickly got into their stride with a vibrant and lively blogspot page offering a terrific portal for their students. Have a look here. The page is rich in information offering economics-related entries from Britannia, a daily entry on a topic of interest and plenty of carefully selectex external links. I like the shocking pink background!
Our latest 34 UK economy chartroom presentation can be downloaded below as a Power Point file. Our A3 UK Economy poster set has also been updated - each order also comes with a download link to regularly updated materials in pdf format that can be used as handouts or perhaps inserted into practice data questions.
The rising jobless total dominates the headlines today - students preparing for the OCR2888 paper this month will be interested to see that unemployment in Spain has now risen above 3 million - a rise of 48% over the year.
High unemployment is here to stay
BBC Business News
UK economy downturn ‘frightening’
A chance You Tube encounter with some classic out-takes from Play Your Cards Right - the cheesy but addictive gameshow hosted several years ago by Bruce Forsyth - prompted me to search for some giant playing cards available to buy online.
Sure enough, Amazon had some A4 cards on offer ..... can anyone find A3 cards? A pack of A4 costs about a fiver and makes a handy prop to have in the classroom when running informal competitions.read more...»
Edward Burtynsky and Jennifer Baichwal’s film Manufactured Landscapes is now available in DVD format in the UK and it contains some tremendously powerful images and takes which underline the depth of impact on our landscape that rapid economic development, globalisation and mass production can have.read more...»
Britain is unable to join the Euro because the economy does not meet some of the convergence criteria - according to Lorenzo Bini Smaghi, the ECB’s board member in charge of international affairs. In particular the sharp rise in government borrowing. More here from this Telegraph article.
Are you an above average driver? Are you more friendly, modest, good-looking, sensible, hardworking and less stingy or perhaps a better singer than the average of the population? When it comes to the level of self-belief when it comes to certain personality traits, many of us rate ourselves as above-average relative to others in a particular group. Ambitious parents think that their children are in the top ten per cent of the school population. We might succumb to the temptation of believing that we are better than the average stock market investor when share prices are rising strongly with us having made few if any investment decisions!
The so-called The Lake Wobegon Effect is examined in a report on the current edition of More or Less - the excellent Radio 4 programme hosted by Tim Harford. Most people are above the mean for a given measurement because of a skewed distribution - the average number of convictions for traffic offences is positive so it is perfectly possible for a majority of safe and responsible drivers to be above-average in terms of their ability to stay within the law, the average is driven higher by a relatively small number of people with a large number of convictions and penalty points to their name.
But if we define the average as the median (the middle score within a group i.e. the value that splits a given group into two equal halves), only 50 per cent of people can be above the average.
More here including a series of reports on the simple mathematics of the credit crunch and a neat piece on average wages, the distribution of income and the work of Vilfredo Pareto.
For the UK -
Median income for people in full-time employment is £25,123
Mean income for people in full-time employment is £31,323
The median income for people working in the public (state) sector of the economy is higher than the private sector
But the mean income for people working in the private sector is higher than people working in the public sector
Over recent weeks I have been filling in teacher references for students applying to US universities. The standard application form asks a teacher to rank a specific student thus
Top 10 per cent of students
Top 5 per cent of students
One of the top few students I have encountered in my teaching career
Invariably I completely ignore the first four options and simply choose one of the last two .... But if I choose the last option five times out of six (to do otherwise might harm a given student’s chances) am I at risk of undermining my own credibility?
Germany has perennially run large trade surpluses with the rest of the world and used external demand as an important source of demand growth for their domestic industries. Germany ran a current account surplus of 7.6 per cent of gross domestic product in 2007.
Germany is the Euro Area’s biggest economy and in 2003 became the world’s biggest exporter. It has developed significant competitive advantages in industrial manufacturing and technology and in a world leader in mechanical engineering, holding about 20 percent of the global market. Just think of some of the world’s major high value-added manufacturing brands - DalmerChrysler, BMW, SAP, Siemens, Volkswagen, Adidas-Salomon and Porsche.
As our chart shows the annual rate of growth of exports has in recent years grown faster than her real GDP, the result has been a large and rising share of exports as a percentage of national income. Overseas sales have, to some extent, masked relatively weak consumer spending. Indeed real household consumption has been flat in real terms for the best part of two years.
But now the macroeconomic situation is changing.read more...»
“The plunging oil price is like a dangerously addictive painkiller: short-term relief is being provided at a cost of serious long-term harm”
If you are interested in the economics of energy then the Financial Times today is well worth buying from the news stand. Ed Crooks provides a superb analysis of the effects that oil and gas price volatility is having on the economic viability of different segments of the energy industry - ranging from conventional oil to unconventional oil (including oil shale, coal to liquid and the oil sands projects) and also the impact of changing prices on demand for and the likely returns from biofuels, nuclear, coal and renewable supplies of energy. There is a superb graphic on page 11 that will grace any classroom wall and make a tremendous teaching handout for students who want to understand more about the demand outlook for different fuels.
Here is the link to Ed’s article. But best to buy your own copy of the FT today for the graphic alone!
The BBC Today programme today covered an interview between Robert Peston and John Varley, CEO of Barclays on the extent to which the banking industry should accept responsibility for the financial crisis and the collapse in lending. This clip includes a section of the interview - the full version will be on Panorama - but the real value is the follow up discussion between Evan Davis and Professor John Kay in which John makes a telling point about the nature of banking risk. The kinds of bank loans that most of us need - to finance a home improvement, or a student loan or an extended overdraft to tide us over unemployment or a period of difficulty were not the types of risk-taking by banks that got us into this trouble in the first place - excessive leverage built on securitisation is the root cause of the crisis.
Evan Davis used to be taught at Oxford by John Kay - it was a delight to hear their conversation on radio this morning as I headed into the final furlong of the Christmas shopping - but the streets of my own home town were strangely quiet even by 11am when I headed home. Was it the same where you live?
John has a new book coming out next month which promises to be timely and enlightening - the title is The Long and the Short of it: A Guide to Finance and Investment for Normally Intelligent People Who Aren’t in the Industry - and it is available for pre-order now on Amazon.
The latest edition of EconoMax is available for download by subscribers
New subscribers can order it hereread more...»
British manufacturing industry is suffering from a sharp drop in production due to a backdrop of a weakening world economy and domestic recession. Even the lower pound which ought to make our products more competitive is having a muted effect because of the slowdown in real incomes and demand in our major export markets.
In the Euro Area too industrial production is contracting at an alarming rate as our chart shows. And once more the US dollar seems to be weakening against the Euro which will make life harder for European manufacturing businesses heading into 2009.
And in a week when German politicians have criticized the ‘crass Keynesianism’ of Brown and Darling’s macroeconomic policies, it is worth noting that capital goods production in the world’s biggest manufactured goods exporter is heading south at a rate of knots.
I might be shot down in flames in predicting this but somehow I doubt that we will reach parity against the Euro.
It is the nature of currency markets to overshoot when the external value of a currency is making a long over-due correction. Notice how stable the sterling –euro rate was between the years from 2003 through to the summer of 2007. It was almost as if the UK economy had locked itself into a fixed exchange rate against the Euro!
Sterling’s weakness can be put down to several macroeconomic factors:
Steep cuts in official policy rates by the Bank of England
A dramatic weakening of the real economy with growth forecasts being slashed
A downgrading of expected real returns from overseas investment in the UK
Expectations that the UK economy will be badly affected by the extended fall-out from the credit crunch – given the huge indebtedness of the personal and government sector
But to move from where we are now to parity between sterling and the euro would represent an exchange rate movement well out of proportion to any economic fundamentals. Will the central banks permit it?
Remember that the European Central Bank is behind the curve when it comes to making interest rate reductions and the pressure will be on the ECB to move further in the early months of 2009 as inflationary pressures subside and the Euro Area moves deeper into recession.
The Guardian: Speculators push pound to record low against euro
With the end of term fast approaching, I plan to sit down and watch this with a glass of a good red close by
Just a brief flag for an excellent applied economics blog - Oxonomics - a recent post offers MP3 downloads of a symposium on the financial crisis and allows you to download some excellent pdf files of the presentations including one by the incomparable David Vines.
The Louis Theroux documentary on law and disorder in Johannesberg is a fantastic documentary to demonstrate just a few economic concepts to students as a christmas treat.
Before the lesson lead a discussion - ‘to what extent is policing a public good?’
Then another discussion leading from,‘to what extent do you think policing should be a public good, i.e. provided by governments?’
Then introduce or perhaps revise the concept of government failure and how governments may fail to provide policing to a desired quantity.
The programme demonstrates how there may be a demand for private police agencies run by the free market in South Africa, because the government fails to provide adequate policing to a desired quantity.
Other points for discussion included in the programme may include; income inequality, the costs of unemployment, external costs associated with slum housing. Also note other government failures the S.A. government are guilty of e.g. failure of information provision for AIDS HIV Virus.
A discussion on the paternal role of governments may also be considered.
The show also raises all sorts of other ethical debates which Louis questions. Try to avoid getting bogged down in these those, keep it to economics!
There is a relevant article on the problems facing the Spanish economy in the Times today - a useful background article for those sitting the OCR 2888 paper in January.
“After a decade in which per capita income doubled - and household debt tripled - the Spanish economic fiesta is well and truly over. More than 40,000 workers are losing their jobs each week, a far higher rate than elsewhere in Europe. Unemployment is at 2.99 million, a 12-year record of 12.8 per cent of the workforce and the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone.”
Martin Rowson’s cartoon in the Guardian today is stunning and could be a great stimulus for classroom discussion
Once a bubble bursts the results can be severe. The construction sector in the Irish Republic is suffering from a steep downturn in output amidst the collapse in property prices and the global financial crisis. Ireland became the first Euro Area economy to hit an official recession this year.
Economists expect Ireland’s real gross domestic product to contract by 1.9 percent this year and 2.8 percent in 2009. Construction sector production is now more than 20 per cent lower than it was at the start of the decade. And unemployment for the economy as a whole is now higher than it was in 1998.
The exchange rate figures prominently in the stimulus material for the OCR 2888 January 2009 paper. And in the Independent today Jeremy Warner writes about the recent fluctuations in sterling and the impact on key macroeconomic objectives for the UK such as inflationary pressures and the trade balance. It also touches on the question of economic convergence with the members of the Euro Area.
“By staying out of the euro, Britain is able to set interest rates to suit its own particular needs, rather than labour under a rate set for the eurozone as a whole, while the collapse in the exchange rate provides the impetus for the sort of export-led recovery that other European countries can only dream of. Our economic situation is already ruinous enough, the argument goes, but if we had been in the euro it would be even worse with little hope of redemption. Yet the argument can equally well be made the other way. As it happens, Britain is probably more converged with the eurozone right now in terms of the economic cycle, interest rates.”
Read the remainder of “Sterling was far too high. Now it may be going the other way”
The apparent inertia of the European Central Bank to change interest rates in response to the volatile macroeconomic climate has been an ongoing criticism of those who believe that the ECB has been too fixated on meeting the inflation target to the detriment of growth and jobs in the Euro Area. As recently as early this year the ECB was still raising interest rates in response to a pick up in inflation. Yesterday the ECB cut official interest rates by 0.75% - its biggest ever interest rate reduction - bringing policy rates down to 2.5% - a smidgeon higher than in the UK. This BBC article covers the news.
Paul Ayres, Intute Social Sciences, University of Bristol and Bhagesh Sachania, The Economics Network, University of Bristol have produced this guide to blogging in Economics.
A quick reminder that tutor2u is running a series of intensive one-day revision workshops for AS Economics students. There are three locations for these key exam focused days:
Fulham (Chelsea) - Monday 1 December 2008
Northampton - Wednesday 3 December 2008
Manchester - Monday 15 December 2008
There are still some places available. To make a booking, please email Chrissie McCarthy (email@example.com) or call the office on 0844 800 0085.
The topics being covered by the AS Economics revision days are:
1: Understanding the price mechanism / market inter-relationships
2: Price volatility; causes and consequences
3: Government intervention in markets
4: Production, monopoly and competition
5: Market failure - externalities
6: Market failure - public, merit and de-merit goods
One aspect of our open source VLE that I am really keen to develop is that of student-generated glossaries where each student writes a short(ish) glossary entry on a particular topic. The entries can be reviewed by students and edited in a wiki-collaborrative spirit. Apart from main subject glossaries and topic based ones such as a glossary on unemployment, I would love to hear from colleagues on ideas for other glossary projects. Some of those mentioned at the conference at the moment include:
Chancellors of the Exchequer
Types of economic policies
Major economic events
Phil Holden in Greece and Bryn Jones from Cambridge have started posting short revision videos on You Tube - designed for their students but highly useful for people wanting to check their understanding of the core ideas. Typically these last around 6-8 minutes and they have proved very popular with my students.Here are a few examples .... please do have a look…they are a super resource to use.
A selection of resources from the conference today courtesy of Jen and Chris - starting with the trading game resources - all related to Experinomics as a Tool for Learningread more...»
We had our November Conference in Cambridge today and it seemed to go really well. Thanks to everyone for making the journey - delegates came from far and wide including Kevin from New Zealand, Vasilis from Cyprus (winner of the highly sought after EMU!) and Paul from Hong Kong.
Thanks too to Jen and Chris from the RGS Colchester for leading us through some great trading games and transmitting so much of their passion for experinomics and how it can be used to engage students and explore ideas in both micro and macro contexts. I will blog shortly to some of the resources from their presentation.
Blogger Bryn gave two expert sessions on the basics of blogging and podcasting. If you do set up an economics blog after getting so much super advice, please let us know! Bryn’s blog is available here.
One of the modules within the new version of Moodle allows students to write their own blogs. It provides a neat way for them to develop some blogging skills without having their output immediately available on the WWW.
Students can read the blogs of others within their course and perhaps glean some ideas for shaping a piece from their contemporaries. So as part of their economics homework last week, they were asked to write a blog on a topic of their choice. I read each and students can gain a small credit (of up to five marks) for their end of term assessment score for each of their weekly blogs. Nearly sixty blogs were produced and I will showcase some of them in the next couple of days. From a standing start we got a tremendous range of topics:read more...»
The October edition of our digital magazine for AS and A2 Economics - EconoMax has now been uploaded onto the web site for subscribers. Details of this months articles are below.read more...»