Business Education in Secondary School: The Case for Teaching Business to Young Learners

When it comes to shaping future business leaders, it’s never too early to begin the journey and introduce learners to the fundamentals of business education. And while many college freshmen arrive with an innate draw toward their institutions’ business program, it is all the better when learners are armed with some exposure to business education in secondary school. Even when students don’t go on to pursue a business degree, a familiarity with the basics of commercial strategy, entrepreneurship, and budgeting helps them go on to make better decisions and add more value in whatever career path they may follow. 


Why teach business in secondary school? The case for early education on business principles

The value of teaching business skills to secondary school students is becoming more widely recognized. Exposure to even the very basics of business can help students build skills related to accountability, leadership, and teamwork. Some other benefits of teaching business to young learners include the following:

  • Instills accountability 
  • Builds teamwork skills
  • Helps students become better leaders
  • Highlights aptitude and talent early
  • Helps guide the college experience – from where to apply, to what major to select
  • Breeds more entrepreneurs 

“Secondary school students hardly know what they want to major in when they are getting ready to go to college. If we start teaching them these entrepreneurship skills in secondary school, they will have a better understanding of the path they want to take their education. We are leading them in helping them find their passion. By teaching them these skills we are helping our future.”


Grand Canyon University


Two general approaches to teaching business to secondary school students

There are two key approaches to business education at secondary school level: Extra-curricular and Curricular. We explore these in more detail below.

Extra-curriculars, internships, & cooperative learning

Business Clubs, Competitions, & Honor Societies

Extracurricular activities, such as business clubs, are one way for students to get some exposure to business principles and to demonstrate their interest on a college application or resume. These clubs give students a chance to connect with other peers who also share a passion for entering the business world.  Some U.S. business club examples include: 

    • Business Professionals of America
    • Economics Club
    • Entrepreneurship Club
    • Future Investors Club
    • Investment Club
    • School Store
    • Stock Market Club
    • Wall Street Club
    • Women in Business

In addition to clubs, students can also participate in competitions and honor societies designed to distinguish students who demonstrate an aptitude for business early only. For example, The National Economics Challenge hosted by the Council for Economic Education is an annual competition with rounds covering microeconomics, macroeconomics, international and current events, and critical thinking. Similarly, Future Business Leaders of America, the largest student business career organization in the world, offers leadership development programs, academic competitions, and community service opportunities.

Internships & Cooperative Learning

Hands-on, real-world learning experiences, like internships or cooperative learning, help a student or applicant learn more about a position before they enter higher education or the professional world. These “field learning” experiences can take many forms and can be tailored to meet discipline-specific interests, such as marketing or operations. Internships placements can be made with local businesses or even at major corporations – for example, Google & Microsoft offer Summer internships for secondary STEM students interested in information and computer science. 


Curricular approach

Business Courses & Electives

Many secondary schools now offer elective courses on principles of business, including marketing, economics, and entrepreneurship. In the U.S., curricula for these courses are often aligned with the National Business Education Association (NBEA) standards. The NBEA develops nationwide standards for business teachers to make sure students across the country are prepared for the business world. Check out the NBEA standards online here.

Example Secondary School Business Courses include:

      • Principles of Business
      • Principles of Marketing
      • Principles of Management
      • Business Economics
      • Principles of Finance,
      • Business Strategies

Similarly, secondary schools in the United Kingdom begin business education in the final two years, when students study AS-levels (these programs are governed by competing ‘boards’ offering competing syllabi that would all go towards the same qualification, such as the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance or the International Baccalaureate)

Dual Enrollment Programs 

For high-achieving students who really want to jump start their business education, dual enrollment programs at participating universities can be a great choice. The term dual enrollment refers to students being enrolled—concurrently—in two distinct academic programs or educational institutions. In these programs, secondary school students can begin to earn credit at the participating college by enrolling in business courses early. A few examples include the Business Dual Enrollment Program at Francis Marion University and the Business Management Dual Enrollment Program at Grand Canyon University

Vocational Schools

Finally, vocational schools are another way that many young learners gain experience and exposure to at least the basics of business education. A vocational school is a type of educational institution that offers either secondary or post-secondary education designed to provide vocational education, or technical skills required to complete the tasks of a particular and specific job. While in the past, these schools were referred to simply as “trade schools,” and taught fields related to skilled labor, many now offer programs in management or entrepreneurship. 


3. Business Simulation Games & Simulation-Based Learning

To support either extra-curricular or curricular business education at the secondary school level, business simulation games are a perfect complement. When done right, sImulations combine the theoretical foundations offered through curricular approaches to teaching business with the hands-on, experiential learning that extra-curricular programs can provide. A few other characteristics of simulation-based learning that are especially apt for appealing to secondary school students include the following:


The fun and competitive nature of business games can be especially appealing for secondary school students, and helps drive home complex new topics without feeling heavy-handed or forced. 

 Social Learning & Team-Based Learning

All learners are social animals, and the informal channels through which information is shared, behavior is observed, and connections are established are some of the most efficient and effective means of learning that exist. At a time in life where one’s peer group is perhaps more important than ever, leveraging the kind of social learning that simulations offer can be especially effective.

Web and Video-Based

A recent survey of YouTube habits found that millennials consume on average 6 hours of video content per day. And as video-learning provider Panopto points out, it’s not all just cat videos: ‘Nearly three-quarters of Millennials — 72% — are using YouTube to watch educational how-to tutorials.’

Theory into Action

What secondary student doesn’t drift off, at least once, during a normal “chalk & talk” lecture? Business simulation on the other hand offers an interactive, dynamic learning experience when students must act and respond in real-time. As learners move through the rounds of business simulation, they are challenged with applying theoretical knowledge in a dynamic, competitive environment, where decisions have an impact on performance. These “real-feel” learning conditions not only help to drive home the fundamentals of business management, but they help keep students active and engaged in the learning process.

Want to learn more about secondary school business education?

Giving young learners the chance to learn – and practice – some of the fundamentals of business basics gives them a head start in their professional lives, whether they intend to enter into a traditional business role or not. If you are interested in exploring simulation-based business education for your secondary school program, contact the HFX Training team today.