The global financial crisis led to increasing distrust in economic research and the economics profession, in the process of which the current state of economics and economic education in particular were heavily criticized. Against this background, the purpose of this paper is to conduct a study with undergraduate students of economics in order to capture their view of economic education.
The paper is based on the documentary method, a qualitative empirical method, which combines maximum openness with regard to the collection of empirical material coupled with maximum rigor in analysis.
The empirical findings show that students enter economics curricula with epistemic, practical or moral/political motivations for understanding and dealing with real-world problems but end up remarkably disappointed after going through the mathematical and methods-orientated introductory courses. The findings further indicate that students develop strategies to cope with their disappointment all of them relating to their original motivation. The theoretical contextualization of the empirical findings is based on the psychological concept of cognitive dissonance.
A socially and politically responsible economic education, however, should provide students guidance in understanding current and prospective economic challenges, thereby enabling them to become informed and engaged citizens. Therefore, it is essential that the students criticism of the current state of economic education be taken seriously and BA programs reformed accordingly.
The originality of this paper lies in the application of a qualitative methodology and explicit focus on the student perspective on economics education. The study provides empirical evidence for a lack of real-world orientation in economics education.