Alevel Economics is growing in popularity, particularly in the independent schools sector. Having studied the subject at A level, many students go on to follow the subject at degree level with some 70 per cent of those studying economics at university. Many of these graduates go on to roles in government and business, shaping the future of our economy.
At Dauntsey’s we have seen the subject growing in popularity over the years. Out of a typical year group, between 25 and 30 pupils will take economics and a further 25 or so will take business studies, with some taking both – these are broadly similar to the numbers taking geography or history. Many pupils go on to study economics or business at degree level, or opt for a related subject or a joint honours degree, often combined with a language. Some later become entrepreneurs.
We work hard to engage pupils in the subject early in their school life. One very popular programme is ‘The Chocolate Challenge’ which happens in the second year. Groups of pupils are given basic information about the UK chocolate market and asked to design and market a chocolate product, thinking about customer profiles, price, distribution, branding and a business plan. They also have to create a website and advertisement for radio, video or podcast. They love how exciting and vibrant the world of business can be. The teams’ efforts are judged by a panel of sixth formers and staff. This type of challenge encourages many pupils to take up business studies or economics A levels when they are further up the school.
The economics A-level curriculum is built around teaching macro- and micro-economic theories and policies, but it’s also about teaching pupils how to think, by constructing arguments. Here, the teaching is not driven by textbooks. Instead the emphasis is on current economic events, with a view to meeting the demands of the exam curriculum fully while keeping pupils engaged and excited.
Business studies is a related but separate curriculum. If economics looks at countries and markets from above, business studies examines organisations from the inside out, placing them in the context of their surroundings. Pupils consider how businesses react to market changes – from regulations to new entrants and disruptive technologies – both tactically and strategically. Pupils learn that businesses are creative, reactive and stimulating.
It’s important to bring economics to life as a subject outside the classroom. Visits to the City of London enable budding economists to see for themselves the dedication needed to succeed – and that not all jobs are in finance. Recent visits from Dauntsey’s include to Rothschilds, Bloomberg and the sharia bank Rosette. We have also spent time at the Bristol Festival of Economics to learn about the real economy, and have heard from former BBC economics editor Stephanie Flanders and CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith.
Another way of developing a deeper understanding of an economics-related topic is through completing an Extended Project Qualification (EPQ), which is essentially a piece of extended research. Examples of subjects chosen by pupils include looking at the power of OPEC, whether personal independence payments are a good substitute for disability allowances, and the effectiveness of the response to the financial crisis.
One of our sixth-form pupils is drawing on his A level Economics course to help run two e-commerce businesses he has set up – one for luxury shoes and the other for coffee-related gifts. In particular, he has found that understanding the economics of herd instincts has helped him analyse influencer trends in shoes. He learns the theory in class and then finds out how it fits with his own experience. He now plans to study business and commerce at Northeastern University in Boston, USA.
Matthew is an ex-pupil who is now working at Vodafone. He found that studying economics at A level gave him a broad understanding of the global economy, how it is shaped and affected and how it can be changed. He also found it a very useful grounding for making more informed decisions at work, particularly with purchases and sales, as it helped him to analyse, predict and understand market fluctuations.
Economics affects all our lives. It encourages the development of logic and critical thinking skills and, in a broader context, it can nurture and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs and policy-makers. As an A level the subject looks set to grow and develop, as pupils recognise the benefits of the curriculum.
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