Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Teacher Trainees Conceptions of Economic Policy Instruments for the Environment

Academic journal article Journal of Economics and Economic Education Research

Teacher Trainees Conceptions of Economic Policy Instruments for the Environment

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Economic policy instruments for the environment (EPI) play a crucial role in international and national environmental policy, e.g. subsidizing renewable energies (IRENA, 2012), fuel taxes (Sterner, 2007) or emission trading schemes (European Parliament and the Council of the European Union, 2003, 2009) as well as in research in Ecological and Environmental Economics (Castro e Silva & Teixeira, 2011; Hoepner, Kant, Scholtens, & Yu, 2012; Ma & Stern, 2006). Being able to understand and critically assess such central policies is important for citizens in order to be able to participate in the shaping of democratic societies. However, so far, there has been little conceptual research in economic education concerning the environment (Seeber & Birke, 2011). In addition, the existing research on Environmental and Ecological economic education does not take the results of research in behavioural economics into account and is mainly focused on explaining ecological problems. However, Education for Sustainable Development strives to enable learners to shape sustainable societies (De Haan, 2006). To address existing gaps, the first aim of this paper is to determine core elements from Ecological and Environmental Economics on EPIs which should be covered in economic education.

Also empirically, only few studies in economic education have covered sustainability related topics. Green (2012 & 2013) reports textbook analysis and interviews with students documenting that introductory economics courses and textbooks place little emphasis on the environment and sustainability. Andersson, Öhman, & Östman (2011) describe four different ways in which moral responsibility in relation to the role of a business person is portrayed in textbooks for International Economics. Davies, Howie, Mangan, & Telhaj (2002) report that British students lack knowledge concerning economic environmental policy. Davies & Lundholm (2012) discover different students' conceptions regarding the question whether goods should be provided for free. They range from a simple recognition that some goods are provided for free up to a desire to set incentives to internalize externalities. Harring, Davies & Lundholm (2017) find that after having studied one semester economics, Swedish students become slightly more likely to evaluate economic policy instruments for the environment (taxes and subsidies) as good and efficient, and less likely to consider regulatory and informational instruments as good and efficient. Interestingly, this result is independent of whether students improved their economic knowledge. Ignell, Davies, & Lundholm (2017), as well as David Löw Beer (2016a) focus on students' conceptions regarding externalities. Both find that most of the students want environment-friendly products to be cheaper than other products. Ignell, Davies & Lundholm (2017) additionally point out that students focus more on the supply than on the demand side when arguing why ecological goods are more expensive. David Löw Beer (2016a) finds that the vast majority of the teacher trainees interviewed does not specifically connect the price adjustments to the ecological harms or benefits of products. David Löw Beer (2018) analyses students' conceptions on Ecosystem Assessment and Valuation (ESAV) and finds that students tend to see nature as a place for recreation and wildlife, do not see knowledge as uncertain and hardly bring up the idea of an economic valuation. Furthermore, Ignell, Davies, & Lundholm (2013) discovers that students are very selective concerning the goods they consider environmentally harmful and that their perceptions often differ from scientific considerations. Studying students in Chinese Green Schools, Sternäng & Lundholm (2012) conclude that the students in the sample believe that environmental problems are unavoidable when developing an economy. They do not see environmental protection and economic growth as conflicting objectives. …

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