I (tentatively) Support Teaching Economics in Australian Schools

Today I read an article by Timothy McDonald about debate around proposals to teach basic economics to primary school students in years five and six.

I was intrigued by the article, as I have been self-educating in the field of Economics and am left wondering how I, a clever student, finished my schooling with out ever having to obtain any serious knowledge of economics.

It is a wonderful idea to teach Australian primary school students the basics of economics. I fully support that. But the question is who will decide what we teach them?

The last thing we need is MORE people fervently believing the existing false-assumptions on which much of the instability of the global economy is based. How deep will the knowledge go? Surface understandings are not nearly enough, for it to be truly worthwhile students should be taught to understand ‘incentives’ and the need for ‘regulation’.

Economic literacy is that missing link between foundational maths and real life, it is a great answers to the question ‘why must I learn this? When will I ever use this in real life?’.

It also offers opportunity for better literacy, there are many difficult terms in economic literature that are often used by those ‘in the know’ to confuse those who don’t understand, and thus to take advantage of them.

I fully believe that if done right this could make for a much brighter and more financially astute Australian population in the future.

One commenter left this response to the article:

“We don’t need primary age children learning about economics and spending a part of their life as fixated with economics as adults. Furthermore, we don’t need more economists. Let’s ensure they can read, write, spell and speak, clearly and understandably before anything else.”

If our early childhood education system is working well at the same time, our children should be able to read, write, spell and speak clearly by the time they are in year 5, the year they turn 10.Perhaps if their children understood economics a little better, parents might avoid being nagged for ‘brand label’ items and expensive products, allowing everyone to ‘fixate’ a little less on ‘economics’.

I also disagree with the premise that being ‘fixated’ with money = understanding economics. These realities are far different. A fixation on money does not lead one to understand incentives, risks and the need for regulations – let alone the complexities of shares, futures, derivatives and ‘short selling’. From my point of view, far too few adults have a realistic understanding of these basic economic phrases.

Perhaps if more of us knew the complexity and risk involved in ‘derivatives’ markets and what ‘mortgage securities’ really are, we could have voted differently, protested more and brought an end to excessive deregulation before it lead to the Global Financial Crisis – or even the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis before that.

One thought on “I (tentatively) Support Teaching Economics in Australian Schools”

  1. I think having a better understanding of economics and the economy is important and maybe should start at a younger age. I think those writing the curriculum would have to be careful not to get caught up in particular economic fads – but an understanding of how to read data and trends can affect people in real life (or at least how not to get scammed on your mortgage) is useful knowledge.

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