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The St Paul’s essay challenge

By Andrew Sykes, St Paul’s School | 13 Jun 2017

By Andrew Sykes

Five years ago, when the Royal Economic Society investigated how economics teaching could be improved, one skill set was universally in demand. When Paul Anand and Jonathan Leape surveyed 500 members of the British Government Economic Service, Diane Coyle wrote in the RES Newsletter in April 2013, the dominant skill that young economists lacked was “the application of economic theories and models, problem solving and communication of economic analysis to different audiences.”

Having been involved with The CORE Project almost from its inception, we have been interested in how we can use the material to help develop the ability of students to synthesise information and communicate what they have learned by bringing to life the models and theory they learn.

Unlike most of CORE’s contributors, I teach pre-university students. To help them learn the skills of assimilating and discussing economics, I created a research essay competition for the year 12 pupils at St Paul’s School in London, who will be starting their undergraduate courses next year. Their brief: use Unit 17 (“The Great Depression, the golden age of capitalism and the global financial crisis”) to compare policy responses to the financial crisis and the Great Depression.

Essays could not be longer than 2,500 words, and the students were required to address the extent to which policymakers had learned lessons from the 1930s in their response to the financial crisis. They also had to refer to the work of at least two economic thinkers.

Our competition winners, were Adam Treger, Ignacio Diaz-Pascual and Avanes Khachaturov (pictured above, from left to right). I asked them how they had found CORE’s course as preparation for their essay:

  • Avanes said the unit was rigorous, but concise. He had used the hyperlinks in the “Read more” sections to get to open-access journal articles by leading economists, which he used.
  • Adam liked the way that the CORE had linked data to the theory, so that the models he had learned were brought to life, and actually helped to explain economic history.
  • Ignacio enjoyed the analysis of Roosevelt’s New Deal, and how the impacts of it carried over into the fiscal stimuli of 2008. He used it to argue that the expansionary programmes of the New Deal, and the way that FDR learnt from the mistakes of his attempts to balance the budget in 1937, seemed to be the first real implementation of Keynesian economics.

You can download their (excellent) essays here: Adam’sIgnacio’s and Avanes’.


We would like to help organise more student challenges like this, or hear about your experience if you have done something similar (and publicise the achievements of your students). Please get in touch at