Pursuing gaps in the market
Ian Davenport reviews textbooks providing access to advanced study.
Over the past 10 years a range of textbooks aimed at the A-level and undergraduate market has emerged. Access to Economics is a basic A-level economics theory textbook covering the full range of micro and macro economics, but in this highly competitive market it needed to offer something different.
Although the explanations are clear and concise and the chapters are short and to the point, the book offers nothing new by way of explanation or presentation. Indeed, the design is reminiscent of the theory books of the Seventies and there is scope for more of the imagination that many recent textbooks demonstrate in abundance.
The text doesn't highlight definitions or key areas and, for A-level purposes, covers much that is no longer necessary (for example, indifference curves). It also fails to place as much emphasis on the AS-AD theory as exam boards now require.
But there are some positive elements. The coverage of the material is good and contemporary examples are used when appropriate. The model answers at the end of the book will be extremely useful as a guide to applying the economic theory to the exam question.
The new books in the Studies in the UK Economy series are welcome as A-level applied resource material is scarce. The UK Labour Market is an excellent introductory text; the theory is clear, accessible and well-presented graphically, diagrammatically and in the writing. The chapters dealing with the minimum wage debate and the implications of the European Union are particularly useful. As with most books in this series, more able students will want to further their understanding through other more advanced sources.
Transport Economics is a generally successful introduction to this difficult area. It covers the range of subjects and introduces students to the basic tools of economic analysis. Extracts from recent journals help to bridge the gap between theory and contemporary evidence, but there is scope for more up-to-date material in the text itself.
Students will probably need more detailed explanations of cost-benefit analysis from other sources and anyone covering transport economics as a specialist topic will find this book of little use other than as a starting point. The questions in Transport Economics, unlike those in The UK Labour Market, are not particularly challenging.
Data Response is a very useful resource. The teacher's pack contains 64 pages of photocopiable answers to the data response questions. The first two sections cover some basic techniques and common areas of data response, the last, and most useful, gives the questions.
The book has been written with the current changes in the A-level syllabuses in mind. There is greater emphasis on the application of theory, which is increasingly tested through data response questions.
All the major micro economic and macro economic topics are covered (demand and supply, inflation, unemployment, economic growth etc) at a suitable standard.
Access to Modern European Studies is an interesting and informative guide to European issues aimed mainly at business studies courses. The subject is vast and so the selection of material is all-important. The first chapter provides a basic introduction to each of the countries. The information is relatively simple, yet the format allows the reader to make important comparisons between the different states.
The rest of the book deals with various institutional perspectives and finally considers economic and marketing aspects. This book draws together a wide range of complex issues, but most students will need to move on to more specialist works.
Ian Davenport teaches economics at Radley College, Abingdon