Published January 13, 2015
The bad news is that only 17 states require students take an economics class to graduate from high school and only seven states require a personal finance course, according to a survey released Wednesday by the National Council on Economic Education.
The good news is that the number of states requiring students to take economics has increased from 14 in 2004, and the number requiring a personal finance class is up from six in 2004, according to a prior NCEE study.
"We still have a long way to go to get to the point where we think we should be," said Joseph Peri, chief operating officer of NCEE, a nonprofit that focuses on improving economic, financial, and entrepreneurship literacy. "We obviously would like to see that number be a lot higher."
Peri noted the importance of young people understanding how basic economic decisions get made.
"It's always been important for young people to understand basic economic decision making. And it's becoming more and more important as our society gets more complex," he said.
As part of a two-pronged approach, economics should be taught throughout the kindergarten through 12th grade, with a stand-alone course at the high school level, Peri said. Students should learn about topics such as globalization, and its affect on individuals, he added.
Meanwhile, personal finance education is becoming increasingly relevant as individuals are called to take on greater responsibility for their own retirement, and are faced with sophisticated decisions about loans and even credit cards.
"All of these things have become much more complex," Peri said.
He also noted the importance of making sure that teachers are prepared to instruct students on economics and related subjects.
Entrepreneurship classes also lacking
For the first time, NCEE's survey also looked at entrepreneurship education.
"Basically, what we found is that entrepreneurship education is much less integrated into the curriculum," Peri said.
Yet there's a need for this sort of education as entrepreneurship becomes increasingly important in America, he said.
"Entrepreneurship has become such an important part of our country in terms of work, beyond people becoming entrepreneurs. Going to work for big companies, there's a premium placed on entrepreneurial skills, being able to think creatively," Peri said.
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