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Canadian Foundation for Economic Education

By Pamela Hampson

Volume 09 Number 3

THE CANADIAN FOUNDATION for Economic Education was established because, in the early seventies, a group of business people became concerned that the increasing complexity of economic forces in Canada, in particular rising unemployment and inflation, required a higher level of economic literacy among young people than had hitherto been supported by the education system in this country.

Meetings were held with teachers, economists, representatives from industry, labour, and agriculture. Two surveys were conducted in order to establish exactly what the teachers and students saw as their primary needs. The message was fundamental. Teachers were looking for a representative, non-partisan, non-political organization in which they could participate, one which could provide the advice, expertise, and resources they needed.

The Foundation opened its doors in 1974 with the mandate to assist and encourage the teaching of economics at the high school level. The Board of Directors is representative of all sectors of the community, business, labour, education, consumer and cooperatives, among others, and not only establishes the policy of the Foundation, but is closely involved in the day-to-day activities. For example, the members of the publications committee, who are drawn from the Board and also represent a cross-section of economic interests, review and advise upon all the educational publications designed for classroom use. This assures their objectivity, their adherence to the non-partisan philosophy of the Foundation.

During the last seven years, several streams of CFEE publications have been created and introduced into high school classrooms across Canada. Established curricula include such subjects as history, geography, and social studies. The Foundation's supplementary economics materials are designed to bring a new dimension to these subjects, to fill in some of the gaps and to explain some of the historical and current events in an economic context. As more aspects of the economic picture in Canada are introduced into the curriculum, the interrelationships in the economy become clearer. The reasons behind certain events are brought into focus and an enlarged perspective upon future events and circumstances is available.

The Understanding Economics series was launched in 1976. It has tackled some of the economic issues of particular concern to Canadians during this decade. Unemployment was the first. The booklet does not offer solutions It explains what has happened and why. The series goes on to Understanding Productivity, Urban Development, Canada 's International Trade Policy, Agriculture, Immigration, and Labour.

The series entitled, Government and the Economy, started with Government and the Economy -How Much? in 1977 and, within a few months, Stabilization Policies was published. Although originally intended as a teacher resource only, many teachers have incorporated the series into their courses and the booklets have been reprinted several times to accommodate class set orders. Taxation and Federal-Provincial Relations were published in 1978 and 1979 respectively.

Looking to the latest possible opinions and data on current economic issues, the Foundation embarked upon Issues in the Canadian Economy in the fall of 1978. Published six times during the school year, it encompasses a collage of newspaper clippings, teachers' notes, student handouts, and a bibliography. To date, sixteen units have been published and all have been widely used in classrooms. The subjects covered are: Youth Unemployment, A Citizen's Guide to the Constitutional Debate, GATT, Foreign Investment, Profits, Referendum Primer, Skills Shortage: Workers still Don't Match Jobs, Gold, Organized Labour in Canada, Interest Rates, Inflation, Energy I: Towards Self-Sufficiency, Energy II: Pricing and Policy, Taxing and Spending: Decision on the Balances, Energy Supplements: Visuals, Skills Shortage: Workers Still Don't Match Jobs.

A teachers' journal, Economics in Canadian Schools was started on a semi-annual basis in the summer of 1978. Focusing on teaching ideas for and by teachers, it includes book reviews, simulation and game ideas for the classroom, feature articles on the state of the art in economic education, and forthcoming conferences and seminars of interest to economics, history, geography, and social studies teachers.

Two full-length books were published under the Foundation's name in the summer of 1980. Economic Reasoning, by Professors Edward English of Carleton University and David C. Smith of Queen's University, introduces the study of economics in a new way, focusing upon the interrelationships in the economy, the options inherent in the decision-making process and the trade-offs that are basic to the final decision. It explains many of the mysteries of economics by looking at the economic process as a whole. It communicates the essential concepts while avoiding the diagrammatical apparatus usually found in introductory texts. The book is now being prepared for a second printing. Economic Statistics is a resource and workbook to which many people have contributed. Prepared as an instructional aid for teachers and students, it looks at the economic statistics that affect our day-today life. It is written at the senior high school level and is designed in individual units that can be extracted and integrated into course and classroom use when relevant.

Individual topic units have been published by the Foundation as particularly vital issues emerged. A background paper, "A Look at the Economics of Oil in Canada," came out in early 1978 Much has happened on both the national and international energy scenes since that time, but this four-page unit gives the fundamentals of the crises and how the train of events got started.

Special teaching units are available from the Foundation upon request. Designed for classroom use, they include visuals, explanations, and up-to-date data on particulars issues in the economy. Some are suggested as supplements to other CFEE publications; some are on their own. Some of the titles are: Aging of the Boomies: Economic Impact Energy in Canada Labour Market in Canada, Teaching Economics Using Editorial Cartoons, Economic motivators, Introducing Students to Productivity.

These teaching units have been tested and circulated through CFEE's field program,, which is increasingly widespread, reaching into every province and into outlying areas of | many of those provinces. Basically it supports teachers of economics and economics-related subjects in discovering and mastering effective techniques for teaching economics concepts in the classroom. Varied needs require varied programs. Here are some of them:

Held as part of conferences, courses, or PD days, seminars ranging from two hours to two days are held across Canada. Sample themes include: methods of introducing economics to students, teaching economics in the social studies, teaching economics through simulations, resources for teaching economics

CFEE sponsors, assists, and participates in teacher conferences addressing the needs of both teachers of economics and those involved in related areas. The Conference on Pre-University Education in Economics is held annually at the University of Waterloo (usually in August). Many others arise on an ad hoc basis in response to needs and interest.

Across Canada, schools, boards, districts, etc., co-operate to hold student conferences. For example, a day of speakers, panels, discussions focusing on youth unemployment, ! the skilled labour shortage and other areas covered in CFEE publications. The CFEE staff is equally keen to participate in student and teacher events. Both audiences are vital components of the Foundation's programs.

The Foundation initiates and assists courses to help train high school teachers of economics and related subjects. Mini-courses, ranging from a week to a month are l popular and have proved effective in developing teacher expertise.

In building up a network of those involved in CFEE activities, the Foundation has been successful in involving many people in seminar presentations for teachers. To facilitate this initiative and outside interest, seminar kits have been prepared for individuals who plan to conduct a seminar focusing upon economic education. Potential seminar leaders can be in touch with the Foundation for help in preparing a special kit to meet a special need -- be it topic, grade level, geographical adaptation in the economics field.

One key to the success of CFEE's Field Program is -teacher liaison. Continuing contact with classroom teachers throughout the country is essential. Teachers have changing needs -- over time, by area and by individual -- and to help to meet these developments most effectively through new and amended services, the Foundation staff welcomes and ] requests continuing communication with classroom teachers.

The Foundation will be participating in a number of conferences in the autumn of 1981. Not all the dates are established at the time of writing but the following are definite: The Canadian Education Association annual conference to be held in Saskatoon September 23-25. The Canadian Association for Social Studies conference to be held in Red Deer, Alberta, October 22-24.

The Foundation's programs are designed to help the high school teacher of economics and economics related subjects. Both the publication and field programs are geared to teacher and student needs. If you would like more information on any aspect of the program, please write or telephone: The Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, 252 Bloor St. West, Suite S.560, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1V5, (416) 968-2236.

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