For decades, Ukrainian students have learned about economics from outdated Soviet textbooks that celebrated the worst of collectivism and centralized planning. Ukraine is one of the poorest countries in Europe, and new textbooks are out of reach for most schools. But Bendukidze Free Market Center (BFMC), an Kyiv-based Atlas Network partner, wanted to ensure that students had access to information that made the case for capitalism and economic liberty. The result is Economics, a textbook specifically designed for middle schoolers to learn the impact that free markets have on prosperity.
Using Economics—which is based on the Lithuanian Free Market Institute’s hugely successful textbook Economics in 31 Hours—as a guide, BFMC conducted a teacher workshop in June to show educators how to implement economic values in their schools. The workshop was part of the “ENVY: Economics at School”, project, and teachers from all disciplines were encouraged to familiarize themselves with the included lessons and interactive manual and discuss the future of economics education in Ukraine. The project comes at a time when the Ministry of Education and Science decided to remove economics from all high school curricula this coming year.
The Economics textbook and teacher’s manual received an overwhelmingly positive response and will begin its trial run this coming September in over ten Ukrainian middle schools. “We were able to minimize the pushback from stakeholders with vested interests by leaving it up to teachers and school officials to introduce it to their curriculum,” explained Nataliya Melnyk, director of communications at BFMC. “However, we found that most teachers agree that the subject should be taught as early as possible to improve the dangerously low levels of financial and economic literacy,” she continued.
Melnyk, who won the 2019 Think Tank Shark Tank—Europe competition for her pitch to create the “ENVY: Economics at School” project, says that Bendukidze’s next big step will be convincing the Ministry of Education that economics must become a mandatory subject in middle school. To that end, the organization is establishing a community of headmasters and teachers who support the idea.
“We are aiming to transform the way economics is taught at school to help rear the students into freedom-loving, self-sufficient, and critical thinking individuals,” says Melnyk. “This project would not have been possible without the support provided by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation Ukraine, Belarus, and Atlas Network, through which we established partner-ship with LFMI.”