Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Quem deve ensinar os economistas a mexer no Excel?

Do economics majors need to learn Excel?, por Frances Wolley:

My first job after finishing my undergraduate degree in economics involved using Lotus 1-2-3 - the first "killer app" spreadsheet program - to create graphs. I'd never been taught to use a spreadsheet, but I worked it out.

Fast forward a couple of decades. Spreadsheets are ubiquitious in the workplace. When a new research assistant joins the Bank of Canada, their first job - like mine - is crunching data with a spreadsheet. Yet, at some universities, it is possible to graduate with an economics degree and never learn how to use Excel. (...)

Yet spreadsheets are used in so many applications that it is worth getting some basic knowledge of how they work. Spreadsheets, moreover, provide a crucial conceptual basis for linear algebra and econometrics. A matrix is basically a spreadsheet, a vector is basically a column, an observation is a row. Understanding data in the abstract is difficult, picturing it as a spreadsheet is far more straightforward.

So why aren't our students learning how to use spreadsheets?

Spreadsheets seem to be surrounded by a Someone Else's Problem field. High school teachers figure students will learn to use them in university; university professors assume students must have been taught to how use spreadsheets in high school. Theorists and people who teach field courses leave spreadsheet instruction to the business stats instructors - and business statistics profs sometimes do provide spreadsheet tutelage, especially those teaching in business schools. But not every student takes a spreadsheet oriented business stats course.

I don't think that economics degrees should be just like business degrees - I like the fact that economics has strong theoretical underpinnings, that conceptual understanding and rigor is emphasized. Yet at the same time, don't we have a responsibility to ensure that our students graduate with some basic office skills?
A minha experiência pessoal - nunca tive nenhuma cadeira da Universidade em que me ensinassem a usar o Excel (ou outra folha de cálculo); em "Introdução à Informática" o que aprendemos foi MS-DOS e PASCAL. No entanto, em "Economia Industrial e da Inovação", se não nos ensinaram directamente a utilizar o Excel, deram-nos um trabalho que implicava usar Excel (deram-nos uma disquete com uma base de dados em Excel e tivemos que fazer cálculos a partir dessa base de dados) pelo que, no fundo, criaram as condições para ficarmos a saber como manejar o Excel (já que tivemos que aprender para fazer o trabalho).

A respeito da utilidade de saber fazer cálculos no Excel - talvez seja largamente por saber utilizá-lo que tenho emprego, já que no meu local de trabalho a minha função acaba por ser menos a de "economista" (tirando o Banco de Portugal e entidades parecidas, quem é que precisa de um economista?) e mais a de "o gajo que percebe muito de Excel".

1 comment:

... DdAB - Duilio de Avila Bêrni, ... said...

:: mas economista não é o profissinal que anda sobre um muro que lhe permite vislumbrar, de um lado, o mercado e, de outro, a organização?
:: além do Excel, o domínio de um programa como o MatLab serve para ajudar-nos a pensar.
DdAB