Economics produces future thinkers who can chance the chaos of an increasingly digitised and globalised economy (Heath, 2017). The problem is students are not choosing to study economics, it hardly rates a mention on school subject choice sheets. Its fall from grace is dramatic. In 1991, economics was one of the three most popular subjects in the NSW Higher School Certificate (HSC). This paper seeks to synthesise research findings looking at the influences on the collapse of economics enrolments in NSW schools and asks students and teachers what they think of economics and where or if it has a place in their learning. Drawing on case studies in regional NSW, ACT, the USA, UK and Singapore, the paper shares teachers’ and students’ perceptions about what frames good economics pedagogy, how teachers in economics can use assessment for learning (AfL) and how institutions can support teachers and females to find their way back to economics. The purpose of the research is to provide recommendations that may encourage students, especially girls, to study economics.
“Don’t mourn. Teach and organize.”
(Apple, 2013, p. 25)
Figure 1 is a Wordle using students’ comments from the survey to describe economics. “Money” stands out. It is a narrow perception of economics that dominates students’ opinions and does not reflect how economics is being taught but moreso the media’s packaging of economics. Roughly half of the students who were surveyed had not been in an economics classroom. To unlearn misconceptions, students need to be in economics classrooms.Watts & Walstad (2011) claim “as the amount of classroom time spent teaching economics increases, students learn more” (p.203). Moreover, they cite the gains are more evident in economics than core subjects such as mathematics, English or science.
In 2015 ACT schools introduced the Australian Curriculum (AC) Economics and Business (ACARA, 2015) in Years 7-10. The NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) has retreated from the national dialogue surrounding the AC Economics and Business syllabus (ACARA, 2015) where NSW students have limited access to learning about economic concepts. Students can elect to study a 100 or 200 hour course in Commerce in Year 9 and 10 which may introduce some economic concepts, but it is more likely a learning experience aimed at being a ‘taster’, enticing students to consider Economics as part of their HSC package. It does not reflect deep learning over an extended time.