Public Policy Education Problems

Public policy education needs an overhaul. This is because for a long time, educators have produced analysts in the sector instead of leaders who can achieve things in the real world. Majority of American universities today focus on equipping public policy students with quantitative knowledge useful in policy analysis. The foundation is the study of economics, and specifically social sciences. Methods taught include applied econometrics, decision analysis, application of randomized experiments needed for program evaluation and cost-benefit analysis. Schools forget that the main focus should be on health, defence, foreign policy, education and criminal justice. As a result, students graduate knowing how to collect data, carry out its analysis and determine its effectiveness in public policy.

It is evident that such kind of skills are necessary in public policy. However, they have existed since the 70s. Since then, the world has changed dramatically. We are no longer supposed to rely on assessments and anecdotes. What is required is evidence-based policy-making. Actions taken should be based on the outcome desired. Lessons should be learnt where millions have been spent in implementing and executing failing policies. Analyses carried out on underlying policies instead of the implementation strategy only lead to unachievable goals. Students should be taught how to identify and define problems, develop solutions and effectively implement them through public policy.

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