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August 14, 2008

Report #7


Date: August 11 (M) – 12 (T), 2008
Place: Tokyo Stock Exchange, Tosho Hall, Tokyo

The Network for Economic Education, in cooperation with Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), held a two-day seminar in economics for middle/high school teachers at TSE's Tosho Hall in Tokyo on August 11-12.
On the first day of the seminar, opening remarks were given by a representative of the TSE group and also by Mr. Akira Arai (Toritsu Nishi High) as the moderator.
In Session 1 (10:30-12:30), Mr. Shuzo Nishimura (Kyoto University) gave a talk on "Economics of Medical Care and Public Pension," where he emphasized the distribution side of medical expenditures that are received in large part by doctors, nurses and other personnel in the medical sector, implying that excessively suppressed medical costs would have negative consequences on the number and quality of medical personnel. Regarding Japan's public pension system, our choice between the pay-as-you-go system (fuka-hoshiki) and the reserve fund system (tsumitate-hoshiki) should depend on various factors, especially on the rates of population decline and economics growth, giving a lesson that we cannot often find unambiguous answers in economics.
In Session 2 (13:20-15:20), Mr. Masayuki Nakagawa (Nihon University) made a presentation on "Political Economy of Fiscal Problems," where the definition and meaning of the concept of "primary balance," which should be restored to maintain public confidence in the government's fiscal management in the long run. Also examined was the multiplier effect of fiscal spending, which will depend on whether consumers are myopic or anticipating future tax increases.
In Session 3 (15:30-17:00), a simulation game of the Japanese economy was conducted by the Tokyo Stock Exchange group, involving all the participants, where the game itself is intended mainly for high school students and possibly third-year middle school students to understand the money flow and public financing.
Finally, closing remarks were given by Mr. Soichi Shinohara (Doshisha University).
On the second day of the seminar (8/12), after his brief introductory remarks, Mr. Akira Arai (Toritsu Nishi High) first had all the participants play the “ultimatum game.”
In Session 1 (10:30-12:10), Mr. Soichi Shinohara (Doshisha University) made a presentation in "International Economics," where he explained Ricardian “comparative cost theory” in such a simple way that even middle school students can understand it. An important concept is “comparative” advantage rather than “absolute advantage,” which determines the pattern of trade, and it should be noted that “comparative” advantage tends to change over time, e.g., from light industries to auto and high-tech industries in the case of Japan, according to Mr. Shinohara.
In Session 2 (13:20-15:10), Mr. Motonari Kurasawa (Yokohama National University) gave a talk on “Fundamental Problems and Microeconomics,” where he highlighted such basic concepts as rational behavior, choice and (opportunity) cost, efficiency in time allocation, supply and demand, etc. One can go a long way toward the understanding of economics by just learning these few key concepts.
In the Symposium (15:30-17:00), four panelists (Mr. Arai, Mr. Akamine, Mr. Shinohara and Mr. Kurasawa) discussed how to utilize economics in teaching economic subjects in class, first by expressing their opinions as follows: (1) more emphasis should be placed on the explanation of the basic role and mechanism of economic systems, institutions and policies, rather than memorization of those names and events, (2) students should be encouraged to learn the economic way of thinking and to comprehend and analyze economic and social events on their own, and (3) we all should have a better understanding of market mechanism, affecting our daily life, and the failures of markets as well as governments in reality.
Then, the panelists responded to various questions from the audience regarding moral and economics, winners and losers in competition, merits and demerits of globalization, etc.
Finally, Mr. Shinohara, representing NEE (Network of Economic Education) concluded by reflecting on the two-day seminar that this kind of activities should be continued, but next time more consideration would be given to the order and content of subjects to be covered (including "finance" in the future) , and to meet the needs of middle-school teachers and of high-school teachers separately.
At any rate, it was a good try on the part of NEE in cooperation with the Tokyo Stock Exchange group for the benefit of teachers who are eager to learn economics for more effective teaching practices in class.