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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 16, Number 4, March 2004

The case for business education

by Peter Noah

For the last 12 years, business education in the secondary schools in B.C. has been disappearing, steadily and surely, one course after another. Business education might be gone from our schools in five years. After that, business courses will be available only at the college or university level.

Business education detractors will smile and say, "Business didn’t belong in our schools anyway." I disagree.

I am a business-education teacher, with a vested interest in seeing my field of study and teaching survive. That said, I have feelings of sadness and foreboding on the passing of business education. Sadness, because business education has been a part of the B.C. secondary school curriculum and economy for more than 100 years. You may remember the old Commercial High School at 12th and Oak in Vancouver. And almost every school in the province had typing and shorthand labs. Accounting 11 was an option instead of Math 12, and many worthwhile community projects were started in an entrepreneurship class. Many a fisher, shop owner, and tradesperson could make a go of it having learned to read an income statement in a high-school business course. So it is sad to see an integral part of our educational heritage pass away.

Foreboding, because those are the very courses that are so necessary for today’s economy and society.

In 2004, in our personal and working lives, we are being bombarded with computers; online banking; online shopping; marketing scams; "credit hooking," where cards are easily granted and harshly collected on; employee exploitation, discrimination, and harassment; employee vs. employee conflicts; and so many other challenges.

Those are all problems that basic business-education courses could prevent, reduce, or resolve.

Each of us needs to know how to behave in an office, how to do a tax return, how to use a computer effectively, how to understand the advertising world, how to calculate a mortgage, how to balance the family chequebook, how to prepare a budget, and how to invest and save for old age. Business education courses address those challenges.

If we let business education die out of our secondary schools, every small business owner, every tradesperson, every employee, and every consumer will be the worse for it. More than ever, we need business education as a basic life-skill. Let’s work to get business education back into our schools.

Peter Noah teaches at David Thompson Secondary School, Vancouver, and is president of the British Columbia Business Education Association.



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