Indiana State University Newsroom

Mexican faculty learn about economics education in Indiana

May 27, 2010

Educators from Mexico recently visited schools in Indiana to learn how they teach economic concepts to K-12 students.

During a stop at West Vigo High School they heard social studies teacher Tim Skinner say economics is an important aspect of government that he would teach in his government class even if it weren't a requirement.

"Economics has become so complex and government has become so involved in the economy that it is difficult to separate the areas," Skinner said.

Indiana has had economics education standards for decades. No such standards exist in Mexico, but faculty from Marista University in Mexico City and the University of Guadalajara are working on a five-year plan to incorporate economics into the curriculum of elementary and secondary schools.

Mexican students do not yet have the knowledge to learn the basics of economics, the Mexican faculty said.

Skinner and Cheryl Irwin, economics teacher at West Vigo, met for about one hour with the Mexican visitors as well as John Conant, professor and chair of the economics department at Indiana State University. The visit to the United States by the Mexican professors was coordinated by the Council for Economic Education and included visits to Brian Mancuso's economics class at Terre Haute South Vigo High School and to schools in Kokomo.

The National Association of Economic Educators has been involved in a global outreach for some time by sending some of the best economics teachers in the United States around the globe to help develop international curriculum and to help teach economic education techniques.

Delegations from other countries also visit the U.S. to observe economics instruction in K-12 classrooms.
The outreach began with Eastern European countries that have been transforming from communist to capitalist economies and has now been extended to other nations, including Mexico.

"These teachers are a part of this program," Conant said. "The U.S. is the global leader in economic education at the K-12 level. Having these teachers observe economic lessons being taught in the U.S. by experienced master teachers such as ISU alumni Brian Mancuso, Cheryl Irwin, and Tim Skinner is very valuable for these visiting economics professors. It will help them learn to provide professional development in economic education to the secondary teachers in Mexico, and by doing so, increase the economic literacy of Mexico's students who are struggling to compete in the global economy."

Skinner and Irwin praised Conant for his efforts via ISU's Center for Economic Education to help not only high school teachers but elementary and pre-school teachers with lessons about basic economic principles.

In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis on financial literacy, Conant said.

"We interweave economics and financial literacy and try to make sure students have some fun as well as see how the economy works," Irwin said.

Credit cards are a big aspect of financial literacy education for teens.

"They know credit cards can get them into debt but they don't understand how they can get so quickly into debt," she said.

Economics education can go a long way toward taking some of the mystery out of the subject, the Mexican professors said.

When they learned that Skinner is an Indiana state senator as well as a teacher, the visitors were curious how he separates the two roles.

He explained that Indiana has a part-time citizen legislature and he takes an unpaid leave from teaching when the legislature is in session. During that time, the Vigo County School Corp. strives to find a fully qualified substitute to teach his government classes.
Being a state senator has made him a better teacher, Skinner said.

"Economic education is becoming more important every year. The economy and government have become inseparable. We have to start younger and make sure students have a greater understanding of economic principles," he said.

Photo: - Educators from Mexico met recently with teachers at West Vigo High School and John Conant (left), professor of economics at Indiana State University. Pictured with Conant are (left to right) Aida Hernandez of Marista University in Mexico City; interpreter Christina Morales of Wea Ridge Middle School in Lafayette; Marta Velasco of Marista; and Jorge Barba Chacon of the University of Guadalajara.(ISU/Tony Campbell)

Contact: John Conant, professor and chair, department of economics, and director, Center for Economic Education, Indiana State University, 812-237-2160 or

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or