Primary students to learn economics

School principals have raised concerns over a government plan that could see students learning the basics of economics and business before they leave primary school.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett says an early start is vital because students need to be financially literate and have a basic understanding of how the economy works.

"For young Australians not to be aware of the basics of economics and business [is] for young Australians not to be aware of the potential in terms of their employment, the subject choices that they might make in high school, and young Australians not to be able to manage their personal finances, which even at that age can be an important issue in someone's life," Mr Garrett said.

"We need to move past that and that's why having these subjects provided for in the national curriculum I think is generally seen as a positive." The basics of the economics and business curriculum have been laid out by the Australian Curriculum Reporting and Assessment Authority.

The exact details will be released after consultation with education departments, schools, businesses, universities, teachers and parents.

Mr Garrett says in broad terms, the focus will be on resource allocation and making choices, the business environment, financial literacy and the changing workplace.

"I think the key thing here is to make sure that we have a provision of subjects at a high learning level to give kids a foundation for learning and then an opportunity to make choices whatever their choices might be," he said.

But school principals are concerned that adding a subject to an already packed curriculum for years five and six could take away from other subjects.

The Australian Primary Principals Association says it is a good idea, but the devil is in the detail.

President Norm Hart says the curriculum is already quite full and he worries that by adding to it, other subjects might have to be dropped.

"There are four areas that are the core business of primary schools - literacy and numeracy, science and social education, if you like," he said.

"Now these subjects, business and economics, probably fit under the banner of social education and if they can be integrated into existing work and used in a way that makes that more meaningful to students and helpful for them later in life then that would be a good thing to do in my opinion.

"If we are to have it as an add-on to an already extremely busy working week for primary school students, then I think we need to ask some questions around what goes instead."

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