CORE In Action: University of La Réunion

By Zoulfikar Mehoumoud Issop, University of La Réunion
Fri 17th June 2016 | Blog

At the University of La Réunion, the academic team in charge of the first year of Economic and Social Administration (AES), as well as of Economics and Business, was thoroughly enticed by the philosophy of the CORE project – that is, we should now teach economics ‘as if the last three decades had happened’. The members of that team are Yves Croissant, Sabine Garabedian, Freddy Huet, Zoulfikar Mehoumoud Issop, Stéphane Murday and Olivia Ricci.

The economics department at the University of La Réunion recently introduced a new curriculum characterized by a common set of classes to be attended by every student wishing to pursue studies in economics. It was the ideal time to design introductory classes that were in line with the reality the students encountered, in order to grasp their attention and fuel their motivation to further study economics. The ambition of those classes, named General Principles of Economics 1 and 2, is similar to the one of CORE: to explain the basic theoretical foundations necessary to understand economics by drawing on contemporary stylized facts and the most recent developments in the field.

The philosophy underlying the writing of CORE, which aims for a full collaboration between the universities and institutions around the world, also prompted there the formation of a local academic team of six teaching colleagues working on the creation of a single and harmonized course for various curricula (Law, Economics, and Economic and Social Administration) taught in different campuses of the University of La Réunion (one is located in the North of the Island, in Saint Denis, and the other in the South, in Le Tampon). In July 2015, the team delved into the French translation of a first selection of units from the E-book (1, 3, 6, 7 and 8) and into the creation of class materials, in order to be operational from the beginning of the term – the 21st of August 2015. They gradually managed to incorporate September’s “The Economy” into the main lectures. A total of 36 hours of lectures were delivered to around 2000 students in their first year of undergraduate studies!

From February 2016, a second team continued the work, by selecting other units (11, 12, 13), translating them and creating a series of class slides in French, to deliver to another 1000 students in another 36-hours’ worth of lectures and 18-hours worth of tutorials for the AES program. The academic team was careful in explaining to the students during the lectures that the CORE topics handled in class were designed to answer contemporary economic questions, as for example the interaction between labor and progress, or between economic fluctuations and unemployment. This viewpoint fascinated the students. The tutorial sessions were rather focused on learning the various, mainly mathematical, tools (calculus of variance, of multipliers, as well as other mathematical and statistical instruments, how to read a graph, etc.) in line with traditional introductory economics classes.

A particular difficulty with the CORE syllabus was the absence of facts and examples on France and Europe, even if the examples from other countries enabled the comparison with the particularities of La Réunion’s economy. La Réunion Island is indeed a French overseas territory and an ultra-peripheric region from the European Union, presenting some special employment and demographic characteristics. For instance, income inequalities are larger (with a Gini coefficient close to 0.53) than in the other French regions (average Gini coefficient of 0.38). The differences between the Reunion and metropolitan French regions have been underlined in class: a larger unemployment rate, larger households, a lower level of education, low income from pensions and wealth, etc.

In order to facilitate the learning of the class materials and grant the students more autonomy, they were encouraged to connect to the CORE website to download the units, watch the videos and answer the quizzes and multiple choice questions. However, having the website only in English was a real barrier for first-year francophone undergraduates, limiting its use.

We therefore look forward to discover the translation into French of the e-book, planned for the end of June! The team of CORE users from the department of Economics at the University of La Réunion is fully satisfied by the use they made from the project and looks forwards to the future announced developments. It intends to deliver quizzes, supplementary exercises and other MCQs via the online interface Moodle of the University, starting next term.

This article is available in the original French. Our thanks to Zoulfikar Issop, the author of this piece, for sharing the experience of using CORE on Réunion Island. Also, to Valeria Rueda and Florian Grosset for their work on this translation.

Are you learning or teaching CORE, and want to share your experiences/give feedback? Get in touch with us. We’d love to hear from you.