Economics and Business Education: A Comparative Study of the Ukraine and the United States

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Dr. Larry Dale was one of 14 educators chosen by the National Council on Economic Education (NCEE) and the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), to get a first-hand look at Ukraine's efforts to teach students how to build a democratic market economy. The group, returned from an eleven-day study tour on Ukrainian economic education in the late fall of 2002, in which they visited 22 schools in the cities of Kiev and Lviv. The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of the Ukrainian approach to business and economic education as compared to the status of economic literacy in US High schools.

Our study examined seven different groups of students ranging from those with more than three hours of economics to those who had no formal training in both countries. These students were all given the Test of Economic Literacy, developed by the National Council on Economic Education and nationally normed in 1986, and translated into Ukraine in 1991. The mean scores were tested using a series of Chi Square tests of independence to determine if the difference between the overall performance score and the sub group scores were significant at the .01 level. The results tended to be significant for most of the factors. Then a regression analysis using the two-tailed test at the .01 level of significance, was run on the data.

Amazingly after only 12 years of independence from the Soviet Union the general Ukrainian student population was doing as well on a test of general economics as the American students who had never known any other system. This is because the null hypothesis could not be rejected indicating that there was no significant difference between the Ukraine and American groups overall. An examination of the subgroups was even more revealing. As would be expected, the group that performed the best on the test were American students taking the Advanced Placement tests in economics after completing a high school course in AP Economics that would count for college credit. There was no significant difference between this group and the Ukrainians who were using the economics test as one of their Olympiad exams, a series of exams that are required for graduation from high school. There was no significant difference between the performances of these top groups on the test, since both of these students groups had strong incentive to be successful.

These top groups were followed closely by the college bound Lyceum students who also performed significantly better on the test than any of the other groups, except the top groups. There was however a significant difference between the top groups and the Lyceum group who had no formal training in economics, but not those with a minimal three hour course in economics and business. Since 73% of the College bound students had at least a three credit hour course in business and economics during their high school experience, they were almost even with those specializing in economics. The vocational oriented Gymnasium students were well behind the brighter groups, but performed significantly better than the Midsouth High Schools students, from Arkansas, Tennesse, Missouri and Mississippi, who had not taken any economics or business courses in High School. Also it should be noted that the data from the national norming test bank demonstrates that U.S. students did significantly better in 1986, when the tests were first administered, than the current student groups. This may however representa regional difference, since the more recent data came from a specific region of the country, where as the 1986 data reflected the national experience. Overall it is sad to note that the Nation that perfected the market economy has students that perform only as well as a nation of students that have only had 13 years of experience with a market economy in transition. One explanation may be that the newness factor has a halo effect on the Ukrainian students enhancing their interest in market economics and thus their performance, similar to the effect that computer tutorials had on American students when they were exciting and new in the 1980's. …


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