Introduction to literacy in Economics and Business

Literacy in Economics and Business

Economic and Business literacy encompasses both:

  • the knowledge and understanding of concepts and skills related to Economics and Business
  • the ability to apply such knowledge and understanding over a range of contexts to make effective decisions that consider the impact on oneself, others, the community and the environment (MCEETYA, p.1; Thomson & De Bortoli, 2017, p. 18).

Economic and business literacy includes consumer and financial literacy.

By contrast, literacy in Economics and Business refers to the literate practices and strategies students use to

  • access, understand and communicate their knowledge in Economics and Business
  • interpret and analyse a range of sources of economic and business information, including print, online and other media (Sawatatzki, 2014, p. 288).

Literate demands in Economics and Business education

Students develop their capabilities in economic and business literacy as they:

  • "learn how to build economic and business knowledge and understanding" (ACARA, n.d., n.p.)
  • "how to explore, discuss, analyse and communicate subject-specific information, concepts and ideas" (ACARA, n.d., n.p.).

Specialised vocabulary and multimodal text structures

Like other discipline-specific texts, economic and business texts contain highly specialised language and text structures (Schleppegrell, 2004). Therefore, building economic and business knowledge can be challenging for some students as the language used to express ideas is often complex, impersonal and formal.

Students need to:

  • interpret the meaning of abstract terms such as 'comparative advantage', 'interdependence' and 'globalisation'
  • appreciate that the meaning of some terms used in Economics and Business might differ from their use in everyday contexts. For example:
    • in Economics and Business, 'capital' refers to wealth in the form of money or other assets owned by an individual or organisation that can be invested,
    • which differs from its meaning in relation to a town location (e.g. 'capital' city) or the alphabet (e.g. a 'capital' letter to start a sentence)
  • understand the nuanced difference between similar terms. For instance:
    •  the terms 'effective' and 'efficient' look similar but their meanings are quite distinct.

Using targeted literacy teaching strategies, teachers can support students to understand and accurately use new Economics and Business vocabulary.

In terms of text structures, economic and business content is often multimodal and can incorporate written language, images, diagrams and numeric data.

Questioning the validity and credibility of sources

Students also need to be critically literate of the economic and business content that they listen to or read. This includes questioning the validity and credibility of different sources of economic and business information, and the perspectives or values that may (or may not) be represented. This can help students to develop an awareness of how values, beliefs and opinions can impact on economic and business decisions and issues (Wolk, 2003; Marsh & Hart, 2011).

By teaching students how to understand what 'good' data and information is and how to analyse it, teachers can support students to use economic and business data and information effectively to put forward their own economic and business contentions and to better evaluate the arguments that others make about economic or business issues (Bowen & Bartley, 2013, p. ix).

Text genres

Communication and writing in Economics and Business are also highly specialised. Students must be able to read and write texts that are abstract and technical. Economic and Business texts comprise multiple genres including informative and persuasive genres. [CLL3] 

Informative text types

Informative text types include:

  • Reports
    • a factual description of a feature of the economy (e.g. living standards)
    • a descriptive report about strategies to manage financial risks and rewards for an individual
  • Chronicles
    • a factual recount of survey data and its analysis for market research for a business
  • Explanations
    • a sequential explanation of a process (e.g. job recruitment and selection)
    • a causal explanation of why interest rates are falling- a consequential explanation of multiple outcomes of unemployment.

Persuasive text types

Persuasive text types include:

  • Analytical expositions
    • to argue for a point of view substantiated with evidence (e.g. that corporate social responsibility benefits businesses)
    • to argue that an action should be taken (e.g. changes in the government's environmental policy)
  • Discussions
    • to consider two or more points of views before making a judgement, (e.g. about how best to invest and manage money)
  • Justifications
    • to challenge and argue against a point of view (e.g. that all business act ethically).

To improve their reading and writing skills, students need to learn

  • about the features of these genres and text types
  • how they differ from one another
  • which text types should be used to demonstrate their developing economic and business knowledge and understanding.

Literacy in the Victorian curriculum: Economics and Business

The Economics and Business curriculum aims to ensure students develop

reasoning and interpretation skills to apply Economics and Business concepts and theories to evaluate the information they encounter, make informed decisions and use problem-solving skills to respond to Economics and Business issues and events. (VCAA, n.d.

The Reasoning and Interpretation strand emphasises the subject-specific nature of language and literacy requirements for economic and business decision-making and thinking. Within Economics and Business, students read and view, write, and speak and listen to:

  • collect, process, interpret and evaluate Economics and Business information
  • apply economic and business reasoning to solve problems
  • clarify and justify personal values and attitudes about issues within the business, the economy, society and the environment
  • account for different perspectives
  • develop evidence-based arguments and conclusions
  • reflect on intended and unintended consequences of decisions (VCAA, n.d.).

An integral part of the structure of the curriculum is for content to be taught through relevant contexts. This provides students with an opportunity to read, view, write, speak about and listen to a variety of sources of economic and business information, including print, online and media.

This can support students to connect what they are learning in class with actual issues or events that are occurring both locally in Australia as well as globally and, therefore, develop their economic and business knowledge and skills.


ACARA. (n.d.). Literacy learning progression and Economics and Business. Retrieved from

Bowen M., & Bartley, A. (2013). The basics of data literacy: Helping your students (and you) make sense of data. NSTA Press.

Marsh C., & Hart, C. (2011). A role for Economics education in 21st-century curricula in C. Marsh & C. Hart (Eds.) Teaching the social sciences and humanities in an Australian curriculum (pp. 285–308). Frenchs Forest: Pearson.

MCEETYA. (2005). National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework. Retrieved from

Sawatzki, C. (2014). Teaching Economics and Business. In R. Gilbert & B. Hoepper (Eds.) Teaching humanities and social science: history, geography, economics and citizenship in the Australian Curriculum (pp. 278–296). South Melbourne: Cengage Learning.

Schleppegrell, M.J. (2004). The language of schooling: A functional linguistics perspective. New York: Routledge.

Thomson, S., & De Bortoli, L. (2017). PISA 2015: Financial literacy in Australia. Camberwell: ACER.

VCAA. (n.d.). Victorian Curriculum: Economics and Business. Retrieved from