Archive for July, 2010

Marketing Issues in the Health Care Industry

July 22, 2010

1.0 Terms of Reference

This paper will outline the different emerging marketing issues in the Health Care Industry. The reason why this industry has been selected is because the issues that prevail in the industry seriously affect all of its stakeholders and we need to be aware of them in order to do something about them. This report will highlight the issues one by one. It will start of by giving a brief introduction to the Health Care Industry. Different secondary sources will be sued to highlight the key facts about this industry. Special concentration will be given to the marketing strategies used in this industry and how they have changed over time.

Some of the issues that will be discussed are Sales Strategies, Patents, Medical Tourism, Direct Consumer Advertising, Branding of Medicines, Prices, Distribution, Ethics, Ratio of Promotional and Research & Development budget, Quality of Service, and Packaging and Labeling. All these issues are very prevalent and today, there is a strong need to shed light on them and find solutions. Towards the end, a conclusion will be given and this will include a few recommendations that may help overcome the issues discussed.

2.0 Procedures

Secondary sources were mainly used to complete this report. These include online journals, articles, books and other websites. These revealed a great amount of information which was useful throughout the making of this report. In addition to this, a few specialists were interviewed which helped us understand the issues better.

2.1 To Research the Health Care Industry

This section of the report was prepared by a mixture of sources. Mainly secondary sources were used to understand the health care industry. However, we also took help from a couple of people from within the industry in order to get a better insight. The secondary sources that were used to understand the health care industry were all up to date. This was very important considering the fact that the health care industry is ever changing. Everyday there are new discoveries, new procedures, new issues, and new opportunities. Therefore in order to include all of these in this report, it was very important that up to date sources were used.

2.2 To Identify the Key Factors under a range of Marketing Topics

This was the most critical part of the entire report. It was very important that no issue was left un-discussed. Therefore a large number of secondary sources had to be consulted for this. Once the list of marketing issues that are emerging was established, both secondary and primary sources were used to understand how these issues pose challenges and how they can be overcome. The degree of importance of each issue was based on these sources as well.

2.3 To Evaluate the Impact of these Factors upon the Industry

This was very important in order to evaluate the degree of importance of each issue. The impact has to be evaluated in order to understand which issue was more important than the other. For this, secondary sources were mostly consulted and different statistics, facts and other information was collected from there which demonstrated the impact of these issues. Primary sources were not as reliable when evaluating the impact in this case because those are based on individual judgment and for this we needed a more holistic and general opinion which was there in the secondary sources.

3.0 Findings

From the procedures mentioned above, a great amount of information was retrieved which has helped in understanding the health care industry better. It has allowed us to understand the different underlying issues that are now emerging. We will begin by giving a brief introduction to the health care industry. Next it will move on to the different marketing issues that are emerging in today’s time.

3.1 Introduction to the Health Care Industry

The health care industry comprises of a large number of sectors dedicated to improving and maintaining the health of individuals. It includes the hospitals, medical institutes, pharmaceutical companies, health insurance companies, equipment and instrument providers, and nursing homes etc. The basic feature of a sector belonging to the health care industry is that its ultimate affect of its activities is improvement in the health of individuals in a society.

The health care contributes to the society economically and socially to a great extent. Through its output and employment opportunities, it contributes to the GDP and employment level which is why we say it contributes economically and by providing health care services, it improves the living conditions of individuals and hence we say that it contributes socially (Economy Watch, n.d).

The health care industry has been growing worldwide for a number of reasons. Firstly, there are new and new diseases coming up everyday and hence this causes the health industry to grow. Also, because of the problem of ageing problem in many countries all over the world, the pressure on the health care industry increases which hence can be attributed towards the growth in the health care industry globally. In the year 2006, the medical plans of 42.5 million have grown to a great extent. It is expected that with the increase in the number of different health care programs and health care insurance coverages, the total amount of medical plans will increase to 70.2 million in the year 2025. This will be almost a 40 percent increase in the size of the health care industry (Economy Watch, n.d).

According to the Institute of Medicine, there are four key underlying reasons for inadequate quality of care in the US healthcare system today. They include the growing complexity of science and technology, the increase in chronic conditions, a poorly organized delivery system and constraints on exploiting the revolution in Information Technology. In addition to all this, the trend towards consumerism is also expected to shape the future organization of the health care industry (Sears, A. & Julia A. Jacko, 2008).

Technology has changed the way health care institutions operate. Biomedical and genetic research have changed the treatments rapidly. Such changes have also transformed the rules and regulations set by the authorities. The patients and the healthcare workers have also changed. Many countries are facing the problem of ageing problem. Therefore we can say that the patients are changing in terms of demographics. They are becoming more and more diverse. Because of the increase in information technology, the people are also becoming more and more aware. They, therefore, have higher expectations from the health care service providers (Borkowski, N., 2005). In addition to all this, the global economic crisis has changed the strategies adopted by the companies and the consumer buying behavior as well. All these factors have changed the marketing strategies in the health care industry and it is very important that we are aware about the issues it brings along with itself.

There are a number of countries that contribute largely to the global health care industry. These include Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, India, Turkey and China. According to a source, these countries comprise approximately 1/5th of the worldwide health care sales (Economy Watch, n.d).

A few facts about the health care industry will highlight the importance of the industry. In the United States, it is one of the largest industries in 2008. It is said to have provided a total of 14.3 million jobs. 10 of the top 20 occupations that are growing at the fasted pace are health care related. It will generate a total of 3.2 million new jobs till 2018. This is more than any other industry and it is said to be in response to the rapid growth in the elderly population (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009).

The issues discussed in the coming section will help in understanding the health care industry even better.

3.2 Emerging Marketing Issues

As we complete 10 years into the new century, there are a number of marketing issues that have emerged. These issues have been there for a while now however, only recently, they have been recognized as issues and the need for light to be shed on them has been emphasized upon. These issues will be discussed one by one in the coming sections.

Sales Strategies of Marketers

The number of pharmaceutical sales representatives has increased to a great extent in the past few years, however, the growth in the number of physicians is very low compared to that. This means that the supply has increased and the demand has remained relatively constant. As a result, there is a need to increase the sales of the sales representatives and for this they adopt various sales strategies which may or may not be ethical (Liu, L., 2003). This raises an issue for the health care industry.

At present, there are a number of strategies adopted by sales representatives that are not in the best interests of the customers and the main motive behind these strategies is profit and nothing else. One of these sales strategies is making up uses of a drug in order to sell it. For instance, we witnessed that a very popular pharmaceutical company GSK made up a disorder in order to just sell one of its drug. The drug ‘Requip’ was initially for Parkinson’s disease (PD). GSK, however, through its strong public relations and its marketing muscle created a new market for Requip by targeting the drug at the ‘restless legs syndrome’ (RLS). This disorder was not very commonly known by people. It became very popular after this strategy and experienced strong growth (Yoak, S.D., 2000). Such strategies can be very harmful for the customer because it makes us believe that the pharmaceutical companies are willing to go to any lengths in order to sell their drugs.

Patents

Millions of dollars are put into the research and development of a drug. A lot of time and effort is put into the development of a new drug. Once the formula of a drug is developed, it can be easily copied. This raises a challenge for the large companies that spend a very large chunk of their total budget into development of a new drug. They feel that if they are spending so much money on a drug, only they should enjoy the benefits obtained from it. In order to ensure that no one else copies their drugs, they use patents.

However, there is a dilemma in this entire scenario. Although patents protect the rights of the companies, it takes away the rights for the general public. When copies of a drug are made, they are often sold at a lower price. However, when patents are used, copies are not made and the drugs are sold at a high price which is often unaffordable for most people. Therefore there is a often this conflict of whether to protect the rights of the people or the companies that produce the drugs.

Medical Tourism

Medical tourism is when one country promotes its health care industry in order to attract people from other countries into their own. This is a relatively new concept that countries have adopted in order to increase the revenues coming in from tourism. In the past, medical tourism used to refer to people going abroad for vacations to take advantage of health spas, vacations at the sea shores, or in the mountains and so on. Now this term is being used for going abroad for health care services. Today, medical tourism has become a multi billion dollar industry (Ashcroft, R.E., 2007).

A number of countries have made use of this concept and have started to promote unsafe and untested procedures. For instance, China has promoted its stern cell treatments for paralyzed people and Parkinson disease. People have sold away their houses in order to travel and get treated in China and the treatment has very high success rates. However, the procedures have still not been formally tested and hence we cannot be too sure if the treatment is good for the patients in the long term or not. The researchers also argue that the success feeling may only be psychological which is also known as the placebo effect (Miller, J., 2008).

Similarly many treatments like stapling of the stomach which are not allowed in the United States are carried out in Mexico. These treatments are made popular because of the rise in spread and growth of information technology (Morgan, D., 2001). Such treatments are made available as a result.

Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs on television in 1997. These strategies help increase the sales level, avert under-use of medicines to treat chronic conditions and lead to some overuse of prescription drugs. The ultimate effects of all these strategies benefit the company producing the drug.

Such methods of marketing the products have been criticized for encouraging inappropriate uses of drugs and medications and it is often argued the only motive behind such methods of advertising is driving up drug spending. New drugs that have not been tested properly for the post marketing revelations regarding problems with drug safety are also launched into the market and are advertised directly to the consumers. One can only imagine the kind of effect such methods of advertising can have on the people (Donohue, J.M. et al., 2007).

Prices

The rising price of the drugs and health care treatments is also an issue that is emerging in the health care industry. As mentioned earlier, companies spend a large amount of their expenditure on research and development on new products. In addition to this, the instruments and equipments for treatment in the health care industry are also very expensive. As a result, the price that is often charged for the treatment and drugs is very high. When we see the income of the people in general, it is unaffordable. People who have not taken up health insurance in the United States cannot afford to get treatment when they are in need (Sears, A. & Julia A. Jacko, 2008).

However, when we look at this from the players of the health care industry’s point of view, the high prices are justified. They claim that they need to cover their costs of research and development and also the equipment etc. For this, they must charge high prices because otherwise they would suffer losses and would have to close down. If this happens then the health care industry would collapse and the people will have no way of improving their health. Therefore they argue that the high prices are kept in order to protect the people at large in the long term.

Distribution

The distribution of health care products and services is a very important issue that needs to be given a lot of attention. Pharmaceutical companies often make their products very widely available so that they sell in huge volumes and make large profits. This however means that people will have access to drugs and may misuse them.

When we talk about distribution about health care service, we mean the distribution of different hospitals all across the world. Mostly, we notice that the areas with people from low socioeconomic groups have little access to medical services. The distribution of such services needs to be such that will allow all people equal medical services.

Ethics

The competition in the health care industry, more specifically, the pharmaceutical industry is very high. The different organizations in the health care industry go to every length in order to gain a competitive edge over others. They often use unethical ways of selling the drug to the doctors. They may make incorrect claims in their advertisement. They may make monopolies in order to ensure that no new competition enters into the market and they remain market leaders. They may charge higher prices. They may not innovate in their range of drugs. Information about patients may be disclosed. The patients may not be treated properly (Murray, S.J. & Dave Holmes, 2009). All the issues discussed in this section are in one way or the other unethical and can be included in this section.

All the situations mentioned above are very common in today’s health care industry. These basically include using any unethical means in their daily marketing related operations.

Ratio of Promotional and Research & Development budget

As mentioned before that companies have started promoting to consumers directly through the television. This is an expensive medium of communication. Other such mass communication mediums are now being used by pharmaceutical companies which really puts a lot of stress on their budgets.

One very common strategy that these companies adopt is that they compromise on research and development for a while and use the money saved from these to promote their existing products. By using this strategy, their total expenditure does not increase and at the same time, the awareness level of their drugs increases.

When the research and development budget is reduced in a pharmaceutical company, it has two main effects. Firstly, fewer products are developed which means less innovation for the consumers. The second effect is that products that are not researched upon properly are introduced into the market which means they may not be completely safe for the consumers. Both these effects are bad for the consumers therefore it is very important that research and development in a pharmaceutical company is not being compromised on.

This is an emerging issue because there have been a number of cases when a certain drug was introduced in the market and only after the launch it was discovered that the medicine was not appropriate. Such cases need to be avoided and for that we need to ensure that the ratio of expenditure spent on promotion and research and development is appropriate.

Quality of Service

Another very important issue in the health care industry is the fall in the quality of the services. Although the prices for the health care services have been rising, the quality has still been falling. However, how can we judge if one is getting good quality of service or not? One is said to get good quality of service if the health care service fits the needs and preferences of the consumers. Safety is also an essential feature of health care service. A good quality of service in health care would ensure that the treatment is the best available and suitable treatment for one’s illness. There must not be unnecessary delays and it should include the tests and other necessary procedures. Lastly, the service must be given to everyone and factors such as gender, race, and nationality should not determine whether or not one should get health care services or not (Check Point, 2009).

If all of these conditions are met, we can say that the quality of service is good. However, in most countries, this is not the case. Doctors are negligent, hospitals are dirty, treatment is not suitable and other such cases are very common. The end result is that instead of getting better, the consumer or patient is actually paying for a worse health.

Packaging and Labeling

This is the last issue that we will be discussing in this report. This basically refers to companies not making proper use of the packaging and labeling of the medicines. There is a lot of information that should be included on the label of a medicine. However, the marketers fail to include that information there.

For instance, we can take the example of the case of Accutane which was known as a miracle cure for acne which was introduced in the 1980’s. The ingredients of this medicine were the same as the medicines given to cancer patients therefore it was very strong. It had many side effects and one of them was birth defects if taken by pregnant women. The Federal Drug Administration took action by making sure that very graphic pictures of deformed babies was shown on the medicine containers which reminded the pregnant women not to take the medicine (Consumer Psychologist, 2009). Such actions need to be taken in order to ensure the safety of everyone.

In this case, the label was made use of in order to ensure that consumer was aware of any side effects that the drug may have. It also reminded the people who tend to ignore such side effects and the end result was that women stopped using the drug if they were pregnant because of the fear imposed on them.

3.3 Customers

The customers are very important stakeholders to any industry. In the health care industry, the customers are most important because any action taken in this industry will affect their lives. Therefore these customers need to be protected from the issues discussed above. The main issue with customers in this case is that we are very emotionally and intellectually vulnerable and marketers try to make use of these vulnerabilities.

However with time, the consumers are becoming more and more aware but at the same time the marketers are also becoming smarter. They are finding newer techniques of fooling the customer without them even knowing. It is very important that the customers have full information in the health care industry because their lives depend on it.

One issue over here is that the consumers because of increased awareness are demanding higher quality of service. The increase in population and the fact that ageing population is now becoming a common phenomenon deteriorates the health of patients. They now demand more services, pharmaceuticals, and medical breakthroughs (Price Waterhouse Coopers, 2009).

There are a number of opportunities that health care service providers now have. The increase in technology allows them to provide a service that is demanded by the customers. They can live up to their specifications and expectations. However, the health care service providers must make sure that they do not carry out operations that are unethical. The marketing of these products will have serious consequences for the customers. This must be kept in mind when strategies and products are being designed by them. This will enable them to satisfy the customers (Efro Tech, n.d).

4.0 Conclusion

There are a number of emerging issues that are associated with the health care industry. These include using unfair and immoral sales strategies, direct consumer advertising, medicine branding, increasing prices of medicines, distribution, ethics of health care, compromising on research and development and not making proper use of packaging and labeling.

In conclusion, I would say that the health care industry is all about taking care of the health of people. If this objective is not fulfilled because of the issues discussed above, there is no point of this industry. Therefore in order to increase the effectiveness of this industry, these issues need to be brought up and solutions need to be developed.

There are a number of steps that can be taken in order to reduce the degree to which these issues negatively affect its stakeholders. First of all, a strict framework should be established which must be followed by all nations. Some might argue that this has always been done. However, there is a strong need to concentrate on the implementation of these policies and monitoring the degree to which they are being followed and if any further changes need to be made in them. When this will become a part of the public policy, it will definitely make a difference.

References

Economy Watch (n.d) [Internet]. Available from <http://www.economywatch.com/world-industries/health-care/world.html> [January 25, 2010]

Economy Watch (n.d) Health Care Industry Trends. [Internet]. Available from <http://www.economywatch.com/world-industries/health-care/trends.html> [January 25, 2010]

Consumer Psychologist (2009) [Internet]. Available from <http://www.consumerpsychologist.com/> [January 25, 2010]

Liu, L. (2003) Making a Case for Change. [Internet]. Available from <http://frost.com/prod/servlet/market-insight-top.pag?docid=ABAD-5NLTVR&ctxixpLink=FcmCtx21&ctxixpLabel=FcmCtx22> [January 25, 2010]

Yoak, S.D. (2000) Ethical Issues in Medical Practice Where Medicine and Business Meet. [Internet]. Available from <http://74.125.153.132/search?q=cache:7OcS1BbyLEQJ:www.mgma-sl.org/TempImg/images/mgma-stl/Ethical.ppt+marketing+issues+of+medicine&cd=6&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=pk> [January 25, 2010]

Miller, J. (2008) Medical Tourism Ethics. [Internet]. Available from <http://www.bioethicsinternational.org/blog/2008/01/07/bioethics-medical-tourism-china-offers-unproven-medical-treatments/> [January 25, 2010]

Donohue, J.M. et al. (2007) A Decade of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs. The New England Journal of Medicine. Vol 357. pg 673 to 781

Ashcroft, R.E. (2007) Principles of Health Care Ethics. John Wiley and Sons.

Morgan, D. (2001) Issues in medical law and ethics. Routledge Cavendish.

Murray, S.J. & Dave Holmes (2009) Critical Interventions in the Ethics of Healthcare: Challenging the Principle of Autonomy in Bioethics. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Check Point (2009) Why Quality in Health Care. [Internet]. Available from <http://www.wicheckpoint.org/WhatQualityHealthCare.aspx> [January 25, 2010]

Sears, A. & Julia A. Jacko (2008) The human-computer interaction handbook: fundamentals, evolving technologies, and emerging applications. CRC Press.

Borkowski, N. (2005) Organizational Behavior in Health Care. Jones & Bartlett Publishers

Price Waterhouse Coopers (2009) Healthcare. [Internet]. Available from <http://www.pwc.com/gx/en/healthcare/index.jhtml> [January 25, 2010]

(Efro Tech, n.d)  Local, Innovative Technological Solutions for the Healthcare Industry! [Internet]. Available from <http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:Tpl42LCQiPcJ:www.efrotech.com/portfolio/cs/Pharmalink.pdf+healthcare+industry&hl=en&gl=pk&sig=AHIEtbTBbrlgeEFXTbb8zqJVkATN9kzQTA> [January 25, 2010]

Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009) Healthcare [Internet]. Available from <http://www.bls.gov/oco/cg/cgs035.htm> [January 25, 2010]

Changes of Equity in Taxation

July 21, 2010

Introduction

According to Longman dictionary of contemporary English tax is an amount of money that you must pay to the government according to your income, property, goods etc and that is used to pay for public services. Traditionally, in the pre-capitalist states taxes were paid in kind and labour, but in modern systems taxes are levied in money. Throughout history taxes have been used to carry out functions of the states and their functional equivalents. These states functions include the enforcement of the law and order, property protection, infrastructure and for the day to day operations of the state itself.

Also governments use funds obtained through taxes to fund for public services and welfare. Education and healthcare systems, pension funds for old people, water energy and the like are some of the services funded by the government. Different kinds of taxes and variety of tax rates are used so as to redistribute resources and reduce the burden to the taxpayers which includes business and individual persons or classes of the population (Lerner, 1951).

The tax system of a nation is a reflection of the communal values of its people or its leaders. During the creation of the nations’ tax system consideration must be put on the tax burden distribution, as to whom, how much and for what purpose will the taxes be spent. In most democratic states the tax system will definitely reflect the communal values of the masses but in those states where the citizens don’t have any kind of influence in the tax system then definitely the system will reflect the values of those in power as in the agrarian age where the tax system supported the nobles more than it did the poor as stated by McCluskey (2005).

In this essay I intend to address the fairness of taxation and how it has changed through its evolution since the Adam Smiths time to the present time. Also I intend to elaborate the extent of fairness of taxation in regards to the modern day tax system. With this, I will argue along the lines of the measures proposed to the House of Commons by Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, the chancellor of exchequer in the Pre- Budget report of December 2009.

Changes in the meaning and importance of Taxation

As I have stated above tax is a payment or levy which is currently in form of money imposed on individuals or businesses by the state for the purpose of funding different state functions. The importances of taxes are paramount as per its purposes.  There is a need for the state to protect peoples’ property and provide public services such as education and healthcare. Thus the needs to pay taxes are there and cannot be ignored. The problem is in the methods of tax collection and how the governments spend the funds raised from the taxes collected. In politics and economics this has been the major source of controversy.

Adam Smith in his book Wealth of Nations he outlined four principles of an ideal tax system which are equity, certainty, convenience and economy. These principles are still fundamental and very relevant in the modern environment. They are of paramount importance especially when a tax policy is created. This is because no tax system will be effective in its implementation and satisfactory in meeting its objectives if these principles are not upheld.

In the modern environment globalization of business activity is very speedy, so is the mobility of capital. Without forgetting the blurring of jurisdictional limitations, the domestic settings of tax systems have taken on an international application. Having said this, it seems that today’s application of the principles with a common interpretations have become of paramount importance. The impact of the purpose of taxation on the principles has taken a significant turn especially on the application side of it in the recent past.

The fact that the redistribution of income is socially acceptable means that breaches of design principles or rewriting their content to take account of socially acceptable exceptions is equally acceptable. The tax system can be designed to achieve broad social objectives. Massere (1993) argued that a taxation system can achieve a form of redistribution of income from the wealthy to the poor. This helps to achieve social policy where individuals never fall below a level of income that would deprive them of access to basic food, clothing, housing and education, he continues. But in today’s complex environment with a vast number of different needs have changed the whole concept of equity in taxation.

Big corporations and wealthy states influence the domestic settings of the tax systems of poor nations. Individuals have been sidelined in the development of international tax rules and the complexity and influence of the global economy today have made it difficult for emerging economies to observe fairness in their tax systems. Poor nations have been so absorbed into encouraging foreign direct investments from corporate entities and states to the extent failing to observe the fundamental issues concerning their taxation systems. Because encouraging direct investment and the free movement of capital without the distortion of taxation is thereby more difficult to be achieved in the modern environment than during the Adam Smiths era, the changes and importance of the tax systems today are more seen in the developing world and third world countries.

The extent of fairness and the modern day tax systems

Based on taxation neutrality, all net increases to wealth should be taxed; this means that there should be a uniform treatment across the tax base and comprehensive application of taxation. The fairness of tax systems evolve in this concept as stated by Olmert (1996). People should pay taxes but also should be allowed to retain a significant amount for their own personal use and development. It is not at all fair to have a tax system which takes money from individuals to an extent that they feel the pinch, especially when meeting their daily needs. With the idea that tax meets the expenses of the government which are both current and capital it is just sound to have the current generation invest more on the current expenses. This however does not mean that the capital investments should be left alone but since these are “generational gifts” a fair way should be utilized to balance expenses of the current and future generation and at the same time examine the input of the past generation.  This however is my opinion and a trace of this can be found within the current framework of ensuring our tax system achieves equity but I need say that a lot more need be done. Having said this, hereafter are some of the measures proposed by Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, the chancellor of exchequer in the Pre- Budget report of December 2009 which will guide us in the following discussion on the extent of fairness and the modern day tax system.

  • Cut VAT to 15 per cent for a year to put over £11bn into the pockets of consumers and retailers.
  • Defer tax rises and extended tax allowances for businesses.
  • Temporary increase of the threshold for empty property relief to help small businesses with a rateable value below £18,000 will be exempt from business rates.
  • Defer for smaller companies the raise in corporation tax.
  • Freeze stamp duty so as to help home buyers and home.
  • Ease the procedures for those over 65 to get Working Tax Credit.
  • Cut down bingo duty by 2 per cent.
  • Provide financial support for up to 10,000 undergraduates from low-income backgrounds to take up short internships in industry, business and the professions.
  • Introduce a special one-off levy of 50 per cent on any individual discretionary bonus above £25,000.
  • Reduce pension tax relief for people with incomes over £150,000.
  • Stop the point at which people start paying income tax at forty per cent per annum.

(source; Pre-Budget Report statement to the House of Commons, delivered by the Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer: 09 December 20)

In my opinion taxes are never fair. They are important but never fair especially the modern day tax systems. Considering the measures proposed by Mr. Alistair above, in his Pre-Budget Report which in my opinion sets out to deliver additional revenues, and protect £5bn a year of existing revenues which in his words are” tough, but necessary” measures to increase tax (Melville 2009). Of the additional revenue raised, more than a half will be paid by the “top 2 per cent of earners”. But the question is the other 98 percent which will have to shoulder the other half of the raised revenue; will they have received a fair treatment? I guess not.

He continues to say that he has done it in a fair way and those on modest incomes are protected. He said that the burden on the middle income earners will depend on their earnings. The biggest burden will fall on those with the highest incomes”. To me these statements seem to try shielding the guilt rather than defending the “right” in his decisions. All those measures proposed above do not have any trace of fairness to the common masses as most of them only provide a longer time span for paying them or lure them into deeper into debt (Parking, 2006).

Any government thrives on taxes, there fore every measure which will be taken by the government such as the provision of financial support or the cutting of bingo duty by 2 percent will always be recovered by something else. The issue is the working majority who most of them depend on a pay check and those Small Business Owners are the ones suffering the most from these tax proposals (Melville, 2009) . Those big corporations are never caught in the “rat race” as Robert Kiyosaki put it as they have a lot of loopholes with which to shield their income and increase their cash flows.

Let’s consider this example, as the global financial crisis hit still some banks are insisting in paying even more bonuses to its already highly paid staff. In order to rein back bonuses on the part of banks is just an assumption on the part of the government. Yet Mr. Alistair says that, “the loss of £80 billion incurred by the banks in UK would have been much higher without the unprecedented level of support from the taxpayer”. Yet these banks which still place their top priority in bonus payments will not suffer from the “windfall of taxes” only their employees “as usual”.

Conclusion

In the introduction I explained the meaning of tax and its importance followed by the changes in the fairness of the tax systems since the Adam Smith’s era to the present day. Today, the information age has brought so many changes in the financial sector such that people are failing to understand how they can be financially secure on a long term basis. During the industrial age the financial well fare of the individual was taken care by the government of the company he/she is working for.

But the rules have changed since the information age came to be. Today the financial welfare of any individual will have to be catered by the individual him/herself as the pension plans today are not sufficient to rely on because one can outlive his pension savings due to the fast deterioration of the purchasing power of currency and inflation among other factors. Today people need to be concerned with more than just job security because taxes trap employees easily than they trap employers.

In my opinion taxes have never been fair because in order to raise taxes in a fair fashion one has to figure out who really pays a tax. Also the absence of an ethical consensus on distributional fairness makes it even more difficult to raise taxes fairly. Taxes affect mostly the families’ ability to sustain themselves by reducing the ability to pay their bills such as electricity, water and telephone bills as well as saving for their future. But, even the best of the tax systems will still impose obstacles on firms and families. Also impairs incentives of markets and undermines economic performance.

The modern day tax systems are even worse as they trap individuals in debt. The so called tax breaks and proposals to increase the time span with which to pay taxes are just to lure more and more people into debt. Quoting Kiyosaki in his book Cash flow Quadrant he said that the biggest enemies of people today are taxes and interest on debt. And to top if off, he continues, that the government often offers tax breaks to get deeper into debt. In his opinion in order to be financially free it’s not how much money you make but how much money you keep and how hard it works for you, and how many generations you keep it for. No tax system in the world however is fair enough to help you achieve this, not even our very own.


References

Kiyosaki, Robert (1999). Cash flow quadrant; Rich dad’s Guide to Financial Freedom. Warner Books Inc. USA.

Lerner A, (1951). Economics of Employment Prentice Hall Publishing.USA

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English CD

McCluskey, T; William J.; Franzsen, N; Riël, D. (2005) Land Value Taxation: An Applied Analysis. Ash gate Publishing, Ltd.

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Child and Adolescence Development

July 21, 2010

The simple truth is that we cannot teach what we do not know; we cannot give what we do not have. Teachers are not only expected to be committed, they must have mastery of the subject matter they are teaching. Mediocrity in the classroom is not an option because it undermines the overall reputation of educators (Reece & Walker 2006, p. 115). Teachers must always strive to hone our craft and be vigilant against stagnation. Teachers who have mastered there craft are those who know their material inside and out and are constantly looking for ways to apply such knowledge with constant innovation and relevance in the context of real life.

In the educational process, all teachers must be reminded that the learning process starts with what the child knows. Prior learning is the framework where new concepts are built upon. As such, every teacher should begin with the previous lesson and connect it to the new material. Let the child see the relationship and build their own concepts. This way the child is actively engaged in his own learning because it was a result of what he already knows. I am firm believer of teaching where the students are. Starting with what you know is the best way to attack any learning task. When individuals approach a lesson armed with knowledge and skills they already have, they have more confidence in exploring the new concept (Crystal, 2003, p. 25). It is also encouraging because it gives you a sense of success and accomplishment early on in the lesson, something which is very important to maintain student motivation. Activating prior knowledge also empowers students and gives them a sense of ownership for their own learning. This is very important in young children especially, who are only beginning to explore their independence.

As Dewey once said, there is no better context for learning than the context of real life. Most classes fall into the trap of offering only pure theories without any exposure on how such theories find practical form in the real world. Still, there are some skills training courses offer a sink or swim design without offering any background information. I believe that regardless of the type of platform, the best teaching programs offer solid theoretical foundations as well as practical experience. For young students, this can be achieved by exposing them to natural experiences as much as possible.

High/Scope Preschool Curriculum

Researchers have been consistent in showing that as far as early learning is concerned, play is among the most effective ways to develop communication skills. For young children, play is the ideal venue for socialization, which as previously discussed, frames learning in ways that are meaningful to the student on a personal basis (Rogers & Evans 2008, p14) Playtime is a moment when children have full ‘ownership’ of their time and learning experiences (Smidt 1998, p22). Play also allows teachers to introduce learning concepts embedded within such leisurely pursuits. The leisurely nature of play addresses the young child’s need to have a deep sense of safety in every experience that he or she engages (Shonkoff & Meisels 2000, p56).  The High/Scope Preschool Curriculum aims use this concept by using the element of play and active discovery in order to facilitate learning. Teachers are trained to use scaffolding to provide challenge and heighten the level of academic and cognitive achievement.

The concept of play and leisure is rooted in man’s deep and innate need to socialize and interact with other people outside the context of family or work. Leisure may be reconstructed as activities that people pursue in order to take a break from the grind and demands of daily living (Sutton-Smith & Pellegrini 1995, p118). Leisure activities are believed to help people cope with the stress of work and family responsibilities and allow us to stay motivated and keep us emotionally and mentally balanced. However, for young children, play is not merely a pursuit. It is the means with which they explore the world around them (Nutbrown 1994, p87).  Framed within the innocent sensibilities of wonder and discovery, children engage all their senses to navigate the world of grown-ups through their own terms: through play (Smith & Smith 2009, p71) Play is an activity most comfortable and most natural to children. Through play, children are able to use their skills and competencies in ways that connect to new knowledge and situations (Saracho & Spodek 2003, p14). By playing with other children, language is naturally developed as the children communicate with others to make the play more enjoyable to everyone involved. Language is also the tool to establish rules and goals in play and thus children develop and enhance their ability to communicate (Smith & Smith 2009, p92).

Observation is a key component in the High/Scope Curriculum. For teachers, play is the best opportunity to observe and study a child’s learning zone. Through proper observation of play, teachers can make instant instructional revisions depending on what has been observed right then and there. (OECD 2005) Indeed observation is an essential skill for anyone working with children (Davidson 1996, p135). Observation provides fundamental and crucial data that helps decide further action as far as the child is concerned. This further action may simply involve the refinement of instructional strategies, or may call for intervention measures and the involvement of specialists. Observation allows both teachers and assistants alike to make early intervention procedures that can make a significant difference in the young child’s life. Most researches find that observation as a type of formative classroom assessment is one of the most effective ones to use, especially where young children are concerned. Observation is unobtrusive and provides a more holistic view on the student, and not just focusing on one particular skill or domain alone as some tests tend to do. The discreet nature of observation addresses the preschooler’s need to have a deep sense of safety inside the classroom. Because children do not know that they are being assessed, then they will not feel threatened (Smidt 1998, p2). Moreover, observation provides a more integrative and comprehensive type of formative assessment, as the student is assessed in terms of the bigger picture. It is also more authentic because children are assessed within the context of their normal, day-to-day activities.

Observation has constantly provided a fuller, richer picture of each and every young learner inside the classroom. Proper analysis of my observation logs has provided insights that would not have been available otherwise or through conventional testing. As a result of these regular observations, instructional strategies can be adopted in order to make it more responsive to each of learner’s needs and specific capabilities (Bee & Boyd 1999, p53). Through observation, teachers are able to know their children more in so far as their educational profile is concerned, and as a result, are able to create lessons and choose materials that are more engaging and interesting for them. This creates a cycle wherein the observations help create a classroom full of busy and engaged children, which in turn provides with more opportunities for observation.

Aside from instant feedback and intervention, another advantage of the observation method is that educators are able to create profiles in several developmental and cognitive domains at the same time. For this to be possible, it is important that pre-school or early childhood teachers should be well-grounded on developmental milestones such as cognitive, social, physical, and emotional domains (Shonkoff & Meisels 2000, p72). If observations show that a young child is exhibiting marked and persistent developmental delays, then proper diagnosis and early intervention can be given. Similarly, observation provides educators with the basis for planning a curriculum that is more responsive to the student’s individual level. A young child may have advanced physical skills but have weak cognitive skills, then some measures can be taken so that the child becomes a balanced individual. The weaknesses will be attended to without neglecting other aspects of development.

Through facilitated play and observation, children enjoy interacting with adults as much as they do with their own peers. The children especially like it when teachers play games with them and read them stories. Regardless of the curriculum or philosophy, children will always prefer to learn in an environment of safety. And that safety is provided by the presence of an ever-attentive educator, always ready to help and to guide the children as they learn more about the world and themselves. And this is what High/Scope should consistently aim to provide.

A Classroom of Democracy and Positive Expectations

It’s has been well established that negative words affect our sense of self-worth and erodes our confidence. Anyone can understand that learning and motivation best takes place in an atmosphere of positive expectations and an environment that inspires achievement. How young children are perceived dictates becomes how they perceive themselves, and it then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Therefore it is important that schools create an environment where the young learners are expected to achieve and be successful. In the same token, while people are expected to achieve, they are allowed to do so at their style and preferences as unique individuals. All of these positive expectations are expressed in words and languages. Leaders, teachers, and administrators must understand that young children should be given the opportunity to take ownership of their own learning and accomplishments. By taking this to heart, teachers can then create an environment that advocates participatory learning, where the students are encouraged to explore and discover knowledge in ways that are meaningful in their own lives. (Dewey, 1897)

The High/Scope combines the philosophies of Piaget and Vygotsky. Piaget’s seminal work on cognitive development maintains that intelligence grows parallel to the physical development of the individual. Piaget calls these as “developmental stages” or ages when the individual can be expected to perform certain operations and tasks. (Piaget 1997, p. 2) By relating cognitive development with physical development with certain performance or operational milestones, parents, psychologists, and teachers are able to gauge whether an individual is developing normally, or is advanced or delayed for his or her age, as the case may be. Based on this notion, there is an intimate link between how the the body and the mind develop. Therefore it is very important to be able to provide for the physical needs of young learners because a lot of physical skills like fine and gross motor skills, and hand-eye coordination involve the development of the mind which also controls these actions.

Vygotsky meanwhile contends that the child’s physical environment takes a secondary place to the social environment. Vygotsy refutes Piaget’s theory and argues that social learning precedes or stimulates cognitive development. Vygotsky maintains that through constant engagement with more competent or knowledgeable people in the environment, the child’s own knowledge is enhanced. The distance between what the child can perform independently and what he can do with support or “scaffolding” from the more knowledgeable person is called the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). In this zone, learning takes place through social interaction with the more mature people. For example, in the acquisition of oral language, “young children are active agents”, constantly making sense of the inputs that they get from their surroundings in way that is meaningful to them. From these meanings, children then create their own sense of language rules, constantly refining and redefining these rules through active engagement and communication with the more competent language users in their immediate environment. (Tappan, 1998, p. 25) By combining both physical and social resources High/Scope is able to holistically address the learning needs of the young child.

Teachers may set varying learning environments for their students depending on the classroom resources, teacher’s knowledge and skills as well as students’ needs and interests. However in modern classrooms, there are certain learning environments based on certain educational philosophies that are proven to be effective in maximizing the learning potential and participation performance of students. A constructivist learning environment is a deviation from the traditional way of teaching students. Under this philosophy, students are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their own learning. With the aid of educational programs tailor-made for their developmental level, there is a higher level of engagement and ownership of learning. After all, students are not like a sponge that would just absorb anything that we say. Teachers are just here to facilitate learning and every learner must be given the chance to formulate their own questions, organize thoughts and ideas and take part in the development of the course. With the multimedia interaction, teachers should adhere to the democratic kind of learning environment. The teachers offer them a control of the package but should be there to remind them of the consequences should they go astray.

One of the most important benefits of creating a democratic classroom is that students are able to take on a personal or individualized approach to learning. Because students employ various learning styles and learn at different pacing, using technology allows students to utilize the method and pace best suited for them as individuals. A constructivist learning environment enables the students to discover relationships between concepts and apply new- learned knowledge and principles to new situations (Chen, Hsu & Hung, 2000).

This kind of learning environment also provides opportunities for learners to acquire knowledge from multiple perspectives and share common understanding with other students (UNESCO, 2002). It is a venue where learners could work collaboratively as they utilize a variety of tools and information resources in order to solve problems in exercises or classroom activities (Dexter, 2002). Thus it is not sufficient to say that participation from students would be demonstrated from mere questioning regarding related topics. This constructivist educational philosophy could be integrated with technology and other medium in order for the students to grasp basic concepts presented in every topic. Our teaching philosophy should be in consistent with how we design technological tools for student use. Democratic learning should enable the students to choose the topics and pacing of a multimedia package. They should be able to control and manipulate information in order to answer the problems in the exercises.

A democratic learning environment incorporates control, feedback, collaborative and meta-cognitive strategies. Students would learn not just from slide presentations, exams or lectures, but more importantly from tasks that would entail authentic learning and assessment. When they just take down notes, what is a meta- cognitive skill that a student develops? Learning from active participation is crucial. Students will participate more in the class if they develop appreciation for the course. Developing a love for learning and seeing the significance of information technology in their daily lives are also valuable strategies. Given the importance of computers and communications technology in today’s world, it would not be difficult to inculcate these to students. These values would be developed if there is an appropriate learning environment that best prepares         children for higher-order thinking through active learning approaches (Lowry & Turner, 2005). These would include real world problems and cases that would require students to go through investigative and research process or developing a product or creation through projects. This approach also incorporates student-centered learning (Lowry & Turner, 2005).

What is being emphasized is the learning of the students; how they acquire the knowledge and how it is being applied to different learning situations, may it be in a multimedia environment, in the classroom situation, or in the outside world. It really boils down to the changing role of the teacher in a democratic classroom. Teachers are thus challenged to try out new things and to keep pace with modern educational tools and technologies in order to maximize the learning capabilities of their students.

Conclusion

Much has been said about the nobility of the teaching profession; the high sense of duty and the self-sacrifices required on a daily basis is no less than heroic. Pursuing a lifelong career in education as a teacher is indeed a call of duty of the highest sense; but what must be emphasized that alongside the difficulties, are the rewards that make the sacrifices worth it. The essence of the teaching profession is to be able to provide a venue that maximizes the learning opportunities for every student and to allow their minds to soar to unlimited heights.

Education is a process where teachers and students come together in an atmosphere of collaborative and sustained learning experiences. As teachers facilitate learning, so should their own wealth of knowledge and experiences be enhanced by the students as well. Inside the classroom, the teacher is the single biggest factor that determines the success or failure of learning (Smidt 1998). It is the teacher who creates the atmosphere that will allow the class to focus on their tasks and keeps them engaged in the lessons. The teacher must create a classroom that invites constant opportunities to learn (Mujis 2005, p. 75) In the same token, school leaders create the atmosphere hat makes it possible for teachers and students to come together in mutual learning experiences. As teachers create the atmosphere inside the classroom, so do principals and school administrators create an educational institution that facilitates or hinders learning. The bottom line is that schools provide the venue where the educated person is developed and the policies that school leaders create and the rules that they establish determines the success or failure of this educational process.

References

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Crystal, D. (2003). The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language. Cambridge University   Press. Cambridge.

Dexter, S. (2002). eTIPS- Educational technology integration and implementation principles. In P. Rogers (Ed.), Designing instruction for technology- enhanced learning. Pennsylvania: Idea Group Publishing. pp. 56- 70.

Dewey, J 1897, My Pedagogic Creed. From the School Journal. LIV (January 16, 1897),           pp. 77-80 from Wade Baskin, ed.. Classics in Education. New York: Philosophical Library, 1966. pp. 177-188.

Lowry, G., & Turner, R. (2005). Information systems education for the 21st century: Aligning curriculum content and delivery with the professional workplace. In D. Carbonara (Ed.), Technology literacy applications in learning environments. Pennsylvania: Information Science Publishing. pp. 171- 202.

Mujis, D (2005). Effective Teaching: Evidence and Practice. Sage Publications.

Nutbrown, C. (1994) Threads of Thinking: Young children learning and the role of early education. London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

OECD, 2005, Formative Assessment: Improving Learning In Secondary Classrooms, Educational evaluation, OECD Staff, Organization for economic cooperation and development.

Piaget, J., 1997, Jean Piaget: Selected Works, Routledge.

Reece, I & Walker, S 2006, Teaching, Training and Learning (6th ed) Sunderland:          Business Education.

Shonkoff, J & Meisels, S (2000) Handbook of Early Childhood Intervention, Cambridge University Press.

Smidt, S (ed) (1998). Observing Children, The Early Years: a reader. London and New York, Routledge.

United Educational Scientific and Cultural Education. UNESCO. (2002). Information and communication technologies in teacher education: A planning guide. Texas: Paul Resta.