New study on economic skills of young people in Baden-Württemberg published


“Economic skills of young people in Baden-Württemberg” is the title of a study on the knowledge pupils and students in Baden-Württemberg have in the field of economy, which was published on 24 January 2018. The study, which was carried through under the direction of Prof. Dr. Günther Seeber from Universität Koblenz-Landau and accompanied by MTO Psychologische Forschung und Beratung GmbH Tübingen, was sponsored by the Würth Foundation. It was kindly supported by the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, Youth and Sports of Baden-Württemberg.

A total of 2,333 pupils from grades 9 and 10 of secondary technical schools and secondary schools, as well as from grade 11 of gymnasiums (secondary schools leading to the certificate of general qualification for university entrance), were questioned in 2016 in order to record the economic skills of young people and their attitude towards economic contents and to understanding the connections that exist between them.

Method compares to big knowledge studies

The procedure of the study compares to big competence studies like the PISA study. The tasks are formulated in such a way that the participants are requested to analyze and evaluate the sequence of activities leading to economic decisions and to assess political connections from an economic perspective. The pupils are asked questions like:

  • Why does a professional soccer player normally earn more money than a professional handball player?
  • Is the German Federal Parliament allowed to reduce the VAT in oder to strengthen consumption?
  • Where on an invoice can I find the shipping costs for the articles I have ordered?
  • What special skills and qualities do successful entrepreneurs need?

The results make a differentiation between the skills of the individual grades possible. They provide evidence of the connections that exist between manifold factors such as gender, educational background of the parents etc., as well as the level of skills. Carried through at gymnasiums, the study makes the comparison between pupils with and without classes on content-specific subjects possible.

A few results of the current study

Comparison of types of schools: As expected, pupils learning at gymnasiums show better results than those at secondary schools, again they perform better than those learning at secondary technical schools.

Grade level: In each of the types of school the level of economic skills improves from one to the next higher grade level. The strongest effect could be observed between grade 9 and 10 at secondary technical schools.

Classes on content-specific subjects: Pupils of grade 11 who take special classes on economics showed better results than those who do not attend these classes. The difference was, however, not significant.

Migration background: Pupils of which at least one parent was born abroad perform worse than others. The effect was particularly great if they had spoken another language in their childhood.

Attitudes: There are only very few connections between attitude and economic skills. We observed the strongest effect with regard to the scale on the distribution of income. Pupils who agreed to an adjustment of salaries or an equal distribution of profits to employers and employees, received slightly worse test results.

Intention of the study and objective of the Würth Foundation

During the study, Prof. Dr. Günther Seeber from Universität Koblenz-Landau regularly exchanged ideas with Prof. Dr. h. c. mult. Reinhold Würth. During his time at Interdisciplinary Institute for Entrepreneurship of then University of Karlruhe, Professor Würth had already analyzed the situation at schools in Baden-Württemberg in 2001 - in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Hans Joachim Klein. He had come to the conclusion that both, the knowledge of economic facts of everyday phenomena and the economic knowledge of the young people related to the economic contents taught at their schools, is insufficient.

Almost all of the principals and teachers conveying special contents, who had been interviewed for the study, criticized the education so far lacking in practical relevance and the too low number of classes, and pleaded for more economic classes. The performance differences in dependence on type of school and gender had been grave at that time.

This fact was reason enough for the entrepreneur to set up the Competence Center for Economic Education in 2005 under the umbrella of the Würth Foundation. Since then, schools have been brought closer to economic contents with activities like the Würth Education Prize or the company placement program for teachers. Since its foundation, the competence center has been cooperating closely with the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, Youth and Sports of Baden-Württemberg.

Many things have been improving also in the educational landscape of Baden-Würtemberg since 2001: The core subject “Economy” was introduced at gymnasiums and combined subjects were offered at Hauptschulen (five-year secondary schools preparing students for vocational qualifications), secondary technical schools and secondary schools. To promote the general economic education, the independent subject ‘Economics/Occupational and Academic Orientation’ was introduced in the syllabi of all schools in Baden-Württemberg with the new curriculum 2016.

The results of the 2016 study on economic skills may be considered as the beginning of a series of further studies accompanying the introduction of the subject ‘Economics/Occupational and Academic Orientation’. The results of the long-term study in the grades 7 to 11 will be published in 2021.

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