• 3. REPORT


March 26, 2009



Date: March 14 (Sat), 2009
Place: Economics Department, Nihon University, Tokyo

A one-day workshop on economic education mainly for middle school teachers, organized by Network for Economic Education and sponsored by Keizai Kiho Center and Chiyoda-ku Kyoiku Iinkai, was held at Nihon University in Tokyo on March 14, 2009. There were about 20 participants, including not only middle school but also high school teachers, university professors, publishers, businesspersons, etc.

After an opening address by Mr. Akira Arai (Tokyo Nishi High), Mr. Shoichi Shinohara (Doshisha Univ.) gave a keynote lecture on "Understanding Economic Mechanism, " where he emphasized "division of labor" and "exchange" as the basics of the economy, and the importance of the "firm" to understand the mechanism of production and its relation with the rest of the economy including employment, labor, consumption, finance and government.
Next, Mr. Toshita Saegusa (Meguro Chuo Middle School) presented a teaching material to help understand the relationship between the firm and the economy as a whole, based on Mr. Shinohara's argument.
Mr. Saegusa suggested that after a two-hour exercise of the "Beef Rice Bowl Simulation" is conducted and reviewed, a new simulation "How to Expand Beef Rice Bowl Shop" should be tried to help pupils understand the mechanism of the firm further and its relations with the economy and society at large. If time permits, the next step might be to simulate "New Business Start-up" with the help of outside guests from the business world. Finally, a simulation exercise regarding the relationship between the firm and consumer/government would be desirable, if possible.

A free discussion among the participants on the above presentations was conducted by moderator, Mr. Issei Kato (Nihon Univ.) for about an hour. There were various comments and arguments, including the basic viewpoint such as "efficiency" and "equity" to evaluate the mechanism of the firm as well as the economy as a whole, in relation with Mr. Shinohara's presentation, and the limitations and possible modifications of the simple "Beef Rice Bowl Simulation" such as the employment factor, in relation with Mr. Saegusa's presentation.
Toward the end, a participant from the business world raised a fundamental question about the traditional economic approach that was emphasized at this workshop, and suggested that a brand new approach should be considered to address the issues of the current financial crisis and basic value changes in the global economy. As a result, the discussion was carried over to the networking party after the workshop.

Overall, the main theme might have been a little too much to deal with at a one-day (one-afternoon) workshop, but all the participants could clearly understand the purpose, meanings and remaining problems with this important theme. In this sense, the workshop was a success as a first step toward further activities along this line in the future.

For a Japanese version of this report with photos, see:

December 08, 2008



Fumio OHTAKE “Understanding Market Mechanism and Economic Education in Japan”
Global Communications Platform: Opinions (12/08/2008):http://www.glocom.org/opinions/essays/20081208_ohtake_market/

As the Japanese economy, along with other countries, is being severely affected by the US recession, triggered by the subprime loan problem, there seems to be a widespread opinion in Japan that the American-style market economy has completely failed. Many are now arguing that all regulations in the financial sector should be strengthened since the subprime loan problem was caused by too much deregulation……………………………Given this reality, too much emphasis on the demerits of market competition would be counter-productive. Rather, we should share more positive views on the market system by paying attention to regulations and distribution policies so as to maximize the merits of market competition.

Other Reference:
Soichi SHINOHARA “Main Issues on Economic Education”
Global Communications Platform: Opinions (8/25/2008):

September 08, 2008



Date: September 6 (Sat), 2008
Place: Neiseikan, Doshisha University, Kyoto

Keynote Speech: "'New' Official Teaching Guidelines"
After a brief opening address by Doshisha University Professor Soichi Shinohara, Mr. Yasuhiro Ohkura (National Institute for Educational Policy Research) gave a keynote speech on "'New' Official Teaching Guidelines," where he focused on recent changes in the official teaching guidelines for social studies including economics for middle schools.
Particularly in the subject of civil society (Kohmin), such terms as "conflicts vs. agreements" and "efficiency vs. justice (equity)" should be taken up as fundamental concepts to understand the contemporary economy and society. Also the role and function of finance should be explained by referring to the concepts of direct and indirect financing in connection with changing economic and social conditions. It is important that students be encouraged to think themselves of the roles of the markets, public finance, etc., based on fundamental concepts that they learn in class.

Symposium 1: "On Textbooks"
The first symposium, moderated by Prof. Eiji Yamane (Mie University), took up various issues on textbooks in "Kohmin" (Civil Society) at middle schools, "Gendai Shakai" (Contemporary Society) and "Seiji Keizai" (Politics and Economy) at high schools. Prof. Yamane as well as Prof. Takenori Inose (Hirosaki University) joined the panel as textbook writers, while Ms. Sakae Nakaoki (Shimizu Shoin) joined as a textbook editor, and Mr. Katsuya Takahashi (Tokyo-toritsu Ohshuhkan Middle-High) and Mr. Ken Ito (Hachinohe-shiritu Konakano Middle School) as textbook users.
Several interesting points emerged as a result of their interaction, such as (1) the most widely used (best -selling) textbooks are those that cover most of the key concepts with few omissions, thus may readily used by anyone, (2) those textbooks that emphasize stories to attract students' interest are generally unpopular among teachers due to the lack of freedom and discretion left for teachers, and (3) the widely used textbooks are generally boring for students, so teachers tend to deviate from the textbooks if they try to give interesting lectures to students.
In conclusion, textbook writes and publishers are advised to appeal to schools and teachers regarding the strengths and characteristics of their textbooks for their information.

Symposium 2: "How to Support School Education in Economics"
In the second symposium, moderated by Prof. Hisashi Kuhihara (Shinshu University), the issue of how to support economic education at schools was discussed by Mr. Soichi Nakagawa (Consumer Education Support Center), Ms. Kikuko Harada (Entrepreneurship Development Center) and Mr. Yojiro Nagayasu (Bank of Kyoto).
The three panelists first explained what they have been doing in supporting school children and students at schools and elsewhere in their respective fields, such as consumer education, social entrepreneurship, and money and finance.
Their challenges include how to attract human and finacial resources to their volunteer activities, and how to enhance the effectiveness of their support by maintaining their contacts and feedback with children and students over time.

Concluding Remarks:
In his concuding remarks, Prof. Fumio Ohtake (Osaka University) summarized various presentations and discussions, and pointed out that one of the charactersitics of economics textbooks for middle and high schools in Japan seems to be less emphasis on the merits of the market economy and more emphasis on its demerits, as well as negative descriptions of government activities, compared to the corresponding textbooks in other countries such as the U.S. and Europe.
At any rate, at least some parts of textbooks and reading materials in economics at the middle and high school level should be rewritten, and this annual meetings were quite useful in making us realize the necessity to do so, according to Prof. Ohtake.
Finally, a closing address was given by Prof. Inose, but heated discussions continued among participants at the Konshinkai party after the meetings.

NEE Annual Meetings Program:

For Photos and a Japanese version of this report, see:

August 14, 2008

Report #7


Date: August 11 (M) – 12 (T), 2008
Place: Tokyo Stock Exchange, Tosho Hall, Tokyo

The Network for Economic Education, in cooperation with Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE), held a two-day seminar in economics for middle/high school teachers at TSE's Tosho Hall in Tokyo on August 11-12.
On the first day of the seminar, opening remarks were given by a representative of the TSE group and also by Mr. Akira Arai (Toritsu Nishi High) as the moderator.
In Session 1 (10:30-12:30), Mr. Shuzo Nishimura (Kyoto University) gave a talk on "Economics of Medical Care and Public Pension," where he emphasized the distribution side of medical expenditures that are received in large part by doctors, nurses and other personnel in the medical sector, implying that excessively suppressed medical costs would have negative consequences on the number and quality of medical personnel. Regarding Japan's public pension system, our choice between the pay-as-you-go system (fuka-hoshiki) and the reserve fund system (tsumitate-hoshiki) should depend on various factors, especially on the rates of population decline and economics growth, giving a lesson that we cannot often find unambiguous answers in economics.
In Session 2 (13:20-15:20), Mr. Masayuki Nakagawa (Nihon University) made a presentation on "Political Economy of Fiscal Problems," where the definition and meaning of the concept of "primary balance," which should be restored to maintain public confidence in the government's fiscal management in the long run. Also examined was the multiplier effect of fiscal spending, which will depend on whether consumers are myopic or anticipating future tax increases.
In Session 3 (15:30-17:00), a simulation game of the Japanese economy was conducted by the Tokyo Stock Exchange group, involving all the participants, where the game itself is intended mainly for high school students and possibly third-year middle school students to understand the money flow and public financing.
Finally, closing remarks were given by Mr. Soichi Shinohara (Doshisha University).
On the second day of the seminar (8/12), after his brief introductory remarks, Mr. Akira Arai (Toritsu Nishi High) first had all the participants play the “ultimatum game.”
In Session 1 (10:30-12:10), Mr. Soichi Shinohara (Doshisha University) made a presentation in "International Economics," where he explained Ricardian “comparative cost theory” in such a simple way that even middle school students can understand it. An important concept is “comparative” advantage rather than “absolute advantage,” which determines the pattern of trade, and it should be noted that “comparative” advantage tends to change over time, e.g., from light industries to auto and high-tech industries in the case of Japan, according to Mr. Shinohara.
In Session 2 (13:20-15:10), Mr. Motonari Kurasawa (Yokohama National University) gave a talk on “Fundamental Problems and Microeconomics,” where he highlighted such basic concepts as rational behavior, choice and (opportunity) cost, efficiency in time allocation, supply and demand, etc. One can go a long way toward the understanding of economics by just learning these few key concepts.
In the Symposium (15:30-17:00), four panelists (Mr. Arai, Mr. Akamine, Mr. Shinohara and Mr. Kurasawa) discussed how to utilize economics in teaching economic subjects in class, first by expressing their opinions as follows: (1) more emphasis should be placed on the explanation of the basic role and mechanism of economic systems, institutions and policies, rather than memorization of those names and events, (2) students should be encouraged to learn the economic way of thinking and to comprehend and analyze economic and social events on their own, and (3) we all should have a better understanding of market mechanism, affecting our daily life, and the failures of markets as well as governments in reality.
Then, the panelists responded to various questions from the audience regarding moral and economics, winners and losers in competition, merits and demerits of globalization, etc.
Finally, Mr. Shinohara, representing NEE (Network of Economic Education) concluded by reflecting on the two-day seminar that this kind of activities should be continued, but next time more consideration would be given to the order and content of subjects to be covered (including "finance" in the future) , and to meet the needs of middle-school teachers and of high-school teachers separately.
At any rate, it was a good try on the part of NEE in cooperation with the Tokyo Stock Exchange group for the benefit of teachers who are eager to learn economics for more effective teaching practices in class.


April 12, 2008



Chapter 6: “A Comparison of the Views of Economists, Economic Educators, Teachers and Journalists on Economic Issues” by William Becker, William B. Walstad, and Michael Watts (pp. 65-88)
in William B. Walstad, ed., “An International Perspective on Economic Education,” Kluwer, 1994

E=Economists, T=Teachers, J=Jounalists; Generally Agree (Disagree)

1.Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare
E 71.3% (6.5%), T 65.5% (14.1%), J 54.8% (12.7%)

2.A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy
E 35.1% (15.7%), T 61.0% (7.3%), J 73.6% (4.6%)

3.The money supply is a more important target than interest rates for monetary policy
E 34.3% (40.1%), T 40.1% (29.4%), J 24.6% (34.7%)

4.Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement.
E 56.0% (8.4%), T 61.6% (5.1%), J 52.2% (5.2%)

5.As the USSR moves toward a market economy, a rapid and total reform would result in a better outcome than a slow transition.
E 27.2% (40.1%), T 19.8% (50.9%), J 22.8% (44.3%)

6.Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cuts and/or expenditure increases) has a significant simulative impact on a less than fully-employed economy.
E 59.3% (9.1%), T 51.4% (14.1%), J 35.3% (’17.4%)

7.The distribution of income in the U.S. should be more equal.
E 48.5% (26.7%), T 35.6% (35.6%), J 35.0% (33.1%)

8.Antitrust laws should be enforced vigorously to reduce monopoly power from its current level.
E 34.9% (27.6%), T 44.6% (17.0%), J 42.4% (21.4%)

9.Inflation is primarily a monetary phenomenon.
E 39.7% (28.5%), T 35.0% (29.9%), J 18.5% (50.7%)

10.The government should restructure the welfare system along lines of a “negative income tax.”
E 44.4% (19.0%), T 29.4% (33.3%), J 13.9% (46.0%)

11.Wage-price controls are a useful policy option in the control of inflation.
E 8.4% (73.9%), T 5.7% (84.8%), J 7.6% (71.9%)

12.A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available.
E 76.3% (6.5%), T 72.3% (6.2%), J 51.3% (20.0%)

13.The Federal Reserve System should increase the money supply at a fixed rate.
E 13.4% (54.1%), T 10.2% (67.2%) J 5.5% (62.9%)

14.The level of government spending relative to GNP should be reduced.
E 35.6% (44.6%), T 49.7% (22.0%), J 58.9% (15.1%)

15.The Federal Reserve System has the capacity to achieve a constant rate of growth of the money supply if it so desired.
E 25.4% (36.6%), T 38.4% (26.0%), J 22.8% (37.3%)

16.Economic evidence suggests there are too many resources in American agriculture.
E 48.7% (21.3%), T 20.9% (54.2%), J 14.2% (57.1%)

17.Reducing the regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency would improve the efficiency of the U.S. economy.
E 10.6% (62.3%), T 11.9% (60.5%), J 12.4% (64.7%)

18.If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly.
E 60.1% (13.4%), T 42.4% (32.8%), J 26.1% (35.7%)

19.The cause of the rise in gasoline prices that occurred in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait is the monopoly power of the large oil companies.
E 11.4% ‘(67.5%), T 40.7% (36.7%), J 30.8% (47.6%)

20.In the short run, a reduction in unemployment causes the inflation rate to increase.
E 17.7% (39.4%), T 33.3% (35.6%), 20.2% (40.6%)

21.There is a natural rate of unemployment to which the economy tends in the long run.
E 34.3% (30.8%), T 66.1% (10.7%), J 44.3% (17.3%)

22.“Consumer protection” laws generally reduce economic efficiency.
E 18.3% (55.8%), T 14.1% (61.0%), J 12.7% (62.3%)

23.In the movement from a non-market economy (e.g., Poland) it is important that the ownership of productive resources be privatized at the onset.
E 35.1% (23.7%), T 33.9% (14.1%), J 34.2% (16.0%)

24.A large balance of trade deficit has an adverse effect on the economy
E 26.3% (33.8%), T 56.5% (11.9%), J 58.6% (10.4%)

25.Lower marginal income tax rates reduces leisure and increase work effort.
E 22.6% (43.8%), T 21.5% (50.9%), J 8.4% (60.6%)

26.The trade deficit is primarily a consequence of the inability of U.S. firms to compete.
E 18.1% (51.5%), T 35.6% (29.4%), J 25.2% (35.6%)

27.Reducing the tax rate on income from capital gains would encourage investment and promote economic growth.
E 21.1% (49.8%), T 44.1% (22.0%), J 40.0% (25.3%)

28.The U.S. government should retaliate against dumping and subsidies in international trade
E 15.1% (47.6%), T 30.5% (31.1%), J 32.1% (23.2%)

This report is adopted from the following blog:

February 18, 2008



Date: February 16 (Sat), 2008
Place: International Conference Room, Waseda University

The International Conference on Economic Education, organized by the Research Group of Economic Education, WIAPS (Waseda Institute for Asia-Pacific Studies, was held at the International Conference Room at Waseda University on February 16 (Sat), 10am - 5pm.
After Waseda Univ. Professor Michio Yamaoka gave a brief opening address, Josai Int'l Univ. Lecturer Shintaro Abe moderated the main session by first having Ms. Gail Tamaribuchi (Chair, Secondary Program, Institute for Teacher Education, University of Hawaii at Manoa) make her presentation on "Free Choice & Curriculum Decisions in U.S. Schools." She emphasized that, while economic understanding among high school studens as well as adults seems to be progressing, there is still much room for improvement, especially in some states and localities, and more efforts are needed to make economic reasonsing the 4th R in the U.S. school curriculum.
Second, Mr. Richard Rankin (Advanced Placement Economics Teacher, Iolani School, Honolulu) shared with the seminar participants some of the teaching strategies that he often use to help students remember key economic concepts such as marginal cost, opportunity cost, the role of profits, etc. He used such simple things as a red handkerchief, a lemon, a sheet of paper, a pair of scissors, etc. to make students feel and experience economic activities associated with key concepts.
Third, Ms. Kristine Castagnaro (Executive Director, HCEE) explained the "Economics Cadre" program, which was launched in September 2007 to create and support those economics teachers who might be called "economics champions" within Hawaii's public high school system. She concluded that the Economics Cadre is a realistic program under the current circumstances to encourage teachers, especially, economics champions, to advocate for inclusion of economics in the high school curriculum (see the reference below).
After lunch, the three speakers in turn took up various problems in economic education. In particular, Ms. Tamaribuchi focused on some negative impact of the "No Child Left Behind Act of 2001" on economic education, whereas Mr. Rankin talked about U.S. students' weakness as indicated by last year's national AP Economics exams and how the College Board is attempting to address those weaknesses. Finally, Ms. Castagnaro pointed out difficulties in linking native culture to economic education by sharing her experience in developing a financial literacy curriculum in relation to the native Hawaiian culture.
Free discussions and interactions between the speakers and the participants took place after the presentations as well as at the networking party. Clearly, it was a very stimulating and informative seminar for all the participants.
HCEE Website: http://econed-hawaii.org/
Economics Cadre: http://econed-hawaii.org/cadre.aspx/

September 17, 2007



Date: September 15 (Sat), 2007
Place: Economics Department, Nihon University, Tokyo

After a brief opening remark by Prof. Fumio Ohtake (Osaka Univ.), a keynote speech was given by Prof. Takamitsu Sawa (Doshisha Univ.), who emphasized that what should be taught and learned in economics is the mechanism of the market economy and the way of economic thinking, and that economic education in Japan is in trouble at every level from the elementary school to college and beyond.
Then, in the first afternoon session, Prof. Inose (Hirosaki Univ.) gave an experimental class by using a manual of “Public Goods Game” (originally developed Nihon Univ. Prof. Nakagawa), where participants were divided into 10 groups ("households") to decide whether they would bear the cost of earthquake proof repairs for their condominium. The result was that about half of the households would be willing to pay, and some discussion took place as to how to interpret this result.
Comments were made by Mr. Katsuya Takahashi (Toritsu Haijima High) and Mr. Shigehiro Tanaka (Kitaku Kamiya Middle School), who appreciated this kind of game material, while pointing out some potential problems about the material in term of teachers' understanding and students' interest.
In the second afternoon session, a symposirum on "How to Support Economic Educaiton at School" was held, chaired by Prof. Hisashi Kurihara (Shinshu Univ.), with three panelists, Mr. Shin Akamine (Tokyo Stock Exchange), Ms. Ryoko Okazaki (Bank of Japan, PR Dept.) and Ms. Shinko Onizuka (Japan FP Association), who explained about their activities and materials to support various school programs in economic education. Active discussions were made among participants including Mr. Tadatoshi Asano (Yamamura Gakuen College) and Mr. Akira Arai, who emphasized the important of the role of schools and teachers in choosing available materials provided from outside.
In concluding remarks, Mr. Saegusa (Meguro Chuo Middle School) pointed out some difficulties on the school side, such as securing enough opportunities and time allocation for teacher training, and the importance of various activities organized by the Economic Education Network to help overcome those difficulties. That was also the conclusion of Prof. Shinohara (Doshisha Univ.) , who expressed his thanks to all the participants for useful discussions.
For a Japanese summary and some pictures, see:

April 16, 2007


How to Teach “Efficiency” to Middle/High School Students

It is rather difficult to teach such abstract concepts as "efficiency" and "optimality" to middle/high school students. The following is an idea of teaching these concepts relatively easily to students

1) Economics is a subject to "economize," that is to eliminate or minimize "waste" in our life as well as in our society.
2) Then, what is "waste"? There is some visible waste such as stockpiles of unsold goods and involuntary unemployment.
3) However, there is much more "invisible" than visible waste, such as mismatch between goods and taste and also between skills and jobs.
4) The economy is said to be "efficient," if there is no such waste in the economy. But how such an efficient economy can be realized?
5) Efficiency could be realized if there were the Almighty God who knows everything including people's taste and skills.
6) In reality, communist dictators tried to be the Almighty God, but they failed since they could not possibly know each and every individual's taste or skills. Then, is there any way the economy can achieve efficiency? The answer is "yes, there is a way."
7) That is through the free market system, in which individuals can buy goods and services in the free market, according to their taste, subject to their income, and earn income by supplying labor in the free market. The free market system can achieve efficiency as if individuals were led by the God's "invisible hand."
8) It is needless to say that in reality markets are not so free and, as a result, there is some waste existing in the economy. We should study under what conditions efficiency can be achieved or cannot be achieved, and how waste can be eliminated if it exists in the market economy.

This idea came out of the exchange of opinions in the "Open Discussion Room" (http://seadog.gifu.shotoku.ac.jp/econ-edu/gate/) on the homepage of the Network for Economic Education (http://www.econ-edu.net/).

For a Japanese version of this report, see the following:

April 02, 2007



Date: March 17 (Sat), 2007
Place: Economics Department, Nihon University, Tokyo

After brief opening remarks by Prof. Soichi Shinohara (Head, NEE) and Prof. Harunobu Onagi (Nihon Univ.), a keynote speech was given by Prof. Shinohara, who emphasized the importance of "messages" in economic education for the purpose of educating pupils to be good citizens in modern society. After the speech, a Q&A session took place regarding how to choose appropriate topics for economic education.
Then, the general meeting was held to approve the budget and activity reports as well as the revised fiscal year cycle (9/1-8/31) and the date for the next annual meetings (9/15/2007).
In the first afternoon session, Mr. Saegusa (Meguro Chuo Middle School) gave an experimental class by using a revised version of “Beef Bowl Shop Simulation” with more factors and flexibility in decision-making.
In the second afternoon session, a panel discussion was held, led by Prof. Kurihara (Shinshu Univ.) as the coordinator, with three panelists, Mr. Kikimaru (Yokohama-ichiritsu Ichiba Middle School), Ms. Masuno (Otsuma Middle-High School) and Mr. Hotate (Tokodaki-fuzoku Kagaku-gijutsu High School), who explained about their approaches and materials to attract pupils’ attention to such economic topics as corporate stocks, income distribution, industry and corporate management, etc. . Then, Prof. Otake (Osaka Univ.), as the commentator, pointed out that some more ideas may be needed to teach pupils about social implications of the topics and episodes that are taken up in class.
Then, a lively discussion followed, and continued at the party in the reception room.
For a Japanese summary and some pictures, see:

February 02, 2007


Interview with Prof. William Comanor on Economic Education

Interviewee: Prof. William S. Comanor (Professor, UCLA)

On 12/29 (12/28 in Pacific Standard Time), I interviewed Prof. Comanor, who had a lot to say about economic education based on his long-time teaching experience at various schools in the US and Canada. The following is a summary of my interview with Prof. Comanor.

Summary of Prof. Comanor's Interview.
First of all, economics is a “methodology” and not a “subject matter.” When you talk about teaching economics, people think that you are talking about the economy, and that is wrong. What distinguishes economics from sociology and other social sciences is not the subject matter but rather the methodology, which can apply to any situation with scarce resources.
Second, economics emphasizes the fact that all decisions are taken under constraints. Most people tend to think that for good decisions all we need to do is think about what you want to achieve. That misses the methodology we economist use to determine optimal decisions.
In economic education, students should be taught the fact that all decisions require identification of the constraints as well as the objectives. In a more concrete terms, they should be aware of realistic constraints, whether in daily living or in future career.
In daily living, they first have to decide how much budge they have. However, all constraints are not monetary constraints. Some constraints are imposed by other people like their parents.
For their future career, students should identify their objectives for sure. But again, that is not sufficient. Just “follow your dream” could be unbelievable non-sense, unless constraints are taken into account.
Economics can tell you these important aspects of decision making, whether it is about your daily living or about your future career. I am startled by how little that is appreciated.

For a Japanese version of this report, see the following: