Machines stand still, shops are closed, restaurants orphaned, employees on short-time work, companies slip into bankruptcy, government spending rises: The corona crisis shows with all force that a well-functioning economy is not a matter of course. The consequences of the crisis will be felt for a long time, and they will affect many people. And although the economy is an important part of our lives, many young people learn little about it at school.
“I’m almost 18 and have no idea about taxes, rent or insurance. But I can write a poem analysis. In four languages.” In this tweet, Naina Kmmel summed up the plight of many adolescents: they do not feel adequately prepared for life through school. In 2015, the Klner high school graduate at the time tweeted her frustration. What is the current state of economic knowledge of Schlern?
“Economic education has so far been very heterogeneously anchored in the German general education system and in some cases only occurs in a homopathic dose. Many young people leave school today without a basic economic education,” says economics professor Dirk Loerwald. The Institute for Economic Education at the Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, which he heads, is a co-initiator of the Alliance for Economic Education Germany (BB), which aims to remedy this problem.
The BB is an initiative of teachers, Associations, business and science and is committed to economic education at all secondary schools in Germany. For most Germans, school is the first choice when it comes to conveying economic content. The parents’ house follows in second place, according to an Innofact survey in October 2017.
Whether and how
Although there was a decision by the 2013 Conference of Ministers of Education to strengthen consumer education in schools, there is no consensus as to whether economy should be taught or only that sub-area that affects consumers, i.e. consumer education (this includes other areas, such as nutrition). Thanks to federalism, this is being discussed in 16 federal states and at federal level.
The problems continue with the “how”. On one side are the supporters of their own subject. Nils Goldschmidt, economics professor at the University of Siegen, clearly favors his own school subject economics, because it is about teaching economic thinking. The Federal Consumer Association (VZBV), however, advocates cross-subject mediation without a special subject. “It is important to us that consumer education is test-relevant,” says VZBV team leader Vera Fricke.
Account and consumption
During his research in Germany, Loerwald found over 50 different technical terms in which economy somehow played a role. Examples from the federal states: In Lower Saxony, “business” is taught in all secondary schools. In Bavaria since 2014/15 there was the elective “consumer professional” for secondary schools, the subject “business and law” for high schools and secondary schools. From 2016/17, Baden-Wrttemberg introduced the subject “Business / Vocational and Study Orientation” at all secondary schools, initially at secondary and secondary schools, then at high schools.
In 2009 Schleswig-Holstein renamed the subject “home economics” to “consumer education”; it is taught in secondary school, only not in high schools, there is “business / politics”. North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) is currently bringing economics to the curriculum: “Economics-Politics” has been taught at high schools since this school year, the other secondary schools will follow in the coming school year with an economic offer.
Teacher and lobby
Two things can be seen in NRW: there is now a subject, but not enough qualified teachers. Lateral entrants should now help. And universities have to offer business as a teaching subject in the first place. The case of NRW also shows that the introduction of the compulsory school subject causes controversy. The Education and Science Trade Union (GEW) is particularly critical of the new subject: it fears the weakening of political education.
“We don’t get any further if things are played off against each other. The fact that we also need political education is undisputed,” says Konom Goldschmidt. Our lives are determined by markets and competition. It was absurd that the Sciliar was not taught the tools to understand this.
Furthermore, the GEW fears lobbying of companies. Because the educational budgets of the countries are manageable, many state schools are poorly equipped. Lobbyists see this gap as their opportunity. Associations, foundations, banks or insurance companies try to get their free offers such as “Business at school”, “Business game Brse”, “Up in class” or “My finance coach” into the classroom.
The quality of private providers is very different. “While school books are checked intensively by the responsible ministries, such a check does not apply to the teaching material of private providers,” says Marius Stark, board member of the Financial Competence Prevention Network, an association that supports economic education. The so-called “material compass” of the consumer center tries to provide a first orientation. Independent experts take a close look at the offers there.
You can counter lobbying with your own subject and well-trained teachers. “You don’t have to love capitalism, but you have to understand it,” says Goldschmidt. “Ultimately, it depends on coincidence where I live, which school I go to, whether I am provided with a minimum level of economic education or not,” Loerwald summarizes the current situation. The sufficient preparation of Schlern for life looks different.
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