Background and Purpose
Most people believe that the contents in economic textbooks are difficult for students to learn as well as for teachers to teach. In addition, most scholars, educators, and businessmen agree that economic textbooks do not contribute greatly in teaching market economy, helping rational decision-making, and giving lessons on personal financial management. There are strong criticisms that the public economic education does not reflect the post-financial crisis economic environment.
In general, economic textbooks are not interesting enough for students and, furthermore, textbooks give somewhat biased views on market economy to students, which has resulted in the public opinion that is negative toward market economy. Therefore, this situation raised the need to examine the context of currently used economic textbooks.
The Economic Information and Education Center (EIEC) also strongly felt the need to analyze the economic textbooks based on the current curriculum (the 7th revision), and the EIEC, Ministry of Finance
and Economy, Bank of Korea, Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Federation of Korean Industries participated in this project.
What differentiates this study from others is that it did not aim to eliminate the anti-business sentiment but conducted a comprehensive analysis on the context of economic textbooks such as finding incorrect descriptions, improper examples and explanations (i.e. unethical or biased views). This study aimed to enhance the quality of economic studies taught in classrooms by correcting the current
economic textbooks based on the study result.
Under the 7th revision of education curriculum, students from the first grade elementary school to first grade high school are given economic education as a part of the required course of social studies, and each high school can freely choose one out of 11 elective advanced courses including ‘economics,’ ‘consumer economics’ and ‘economic geography’ for the second and third grades. This study analyzed all of 114 economic textbooks for elementary, middle, and high school students.
Conducted from April to October 2005, the study consisted of two parts: One, analyzing the required economic education, and the second part, the elective advanced economic courses. A team of 8 professors closely reviewed the details of economic textbooks, pointed out errors, classified them, and finally proposed solutions.
According to the study result (table below), economic textbooks had a total of 446 description problems , of which inaccurate descriptions and conceptions account for the largest 36.1%, or 200 errors. High school textbooks had more than 100 errors.
The second most frequent errors were found in the classified type of improper examples and statistics, which accounts for 20%. These types of errors were also found the most in high school textbooks. It
was viewed positive that starting from the previous edition of economic textbooks (the 6th revision of the curriculum) writers intended to offer more practical examples, but it was regrettable that they
did not make much effort to find proper or suitable examples and just borrowed some newspaper articles.
In addition, errors related to anti-market economy, and anti-business sentiments account for 9.4%, or 42. Given that the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry found 62 errors through its own review of economic textbooks and recommended the government correct these errors, the government corrected 42 out of the 62 errors. Consequently, many errors related to teaching economic principles with an unnecessary emphasis on ethical values were found in the textbooks of middle school and advanced courses of high school.
The study result has caused a sensation. Revision of economic textbooks in 2006 was based on alternatives suggested by the study. The study contributed to transforming the textbooks by adding more objective and better-balanced views and eliminating distorted information. With the cooperation of the Ministry of Education & Human Resources, the textbook authors were asked to revise the current textbooks.
In conclusion, this study proposes suggestions for revising economic textbooks as follows.
First, errors or omissions in the education curriculum itself should be corrected. To be adopted by schools, textbooks must include all of the contents recommended in the curriculum. Improving the economic textbook cannot be reached without improving the curriculum of economic education.
Second, contents with a focus on economic ethics and social responsibility of business sectors should be considerably reduced because economic problems must be solved based on rational decision, not moral values. It is better to complement defects in a market economy by adding more contents on social safety net, social insurance, etc.
Third, economic textbooks should be rewritten based on the basic and essential economic principles, which is, after all, related to the fundamental review of education curriculum that is previously mentioned.
Fourth, a textbook assessment system needs to be established. Authors of excellent textbooks should be awarded with incentives and the competition should be allowed in the textbook market so that the bad ones will be driven out.
Finally, in addition to the design of book covers and layouts, the writing style of textbooks that is considered too formal for students should be changed to boost students’ interest in economic textbooks.