Test-as-you-go guide that's just the business

BUSINESS MANAGEMENT FOR STANDARD GRADE. By Alan Bryce and Jamieson Wilson. textbook, pound;9.99. Heinemann Educational. tel 01865 888080.

Sound organisation is evident in many aspects of this textbook. There are four sections which parallel the four areas of study in the 2000 revision of the Standard grade business management syllabus. Each section is subdivided into units, exactly replicating the subdivisions of the areas of study. So, syllabus fit is perfect.

r-indent = Each unit is prefaced by six or seven learning outcomes and there are tests of knowledge and understanding and of decision making - the assessable elements of the Standard grade course - at the end. Those tests tend to be stereotypical: brief questions, low on ambiguity, testing specific knowledge, comprehension or decision-making competence. Where appropriate, for example when testing abilities in interpreting financial information in unit six, the authors have provided stimulus material. Generally, though, the test items provide less contextual information than pupils will get in the national examinations.

The text is well illustrated, both with line drawings and diagrams and with case studies, quotes from authoritative sources and fact boxes.

The authors have used some literary licence in constructing their text. They have tended to resist the temptation to write all you need to know about a topic on first encounter. Their treatment of stakeholders is a case in point. The stakeholder concept is introduced in unit two, revisited in unit four in the context of business planning and rounded off in unit eight, where the expectations of some stakeholders are explored in detail.

The text gets better as you progress through the book. For example, unit 12, on quality models, provides a good review of attitudes to quality management. Unit 14 covers pricing strategies interestingly and in detail. Unit 17, on decision making, has an appropriate human emphasis and sets decision-making in the context of effectiveness.

However, the text is occasionally cryptic. In unit seven, Marks amp; Spencer is cited as an enterprise in difficulties, though the authors don't expand on the particulars. It could be dangerous to assume that any difficulties would be long-lasting.

Some of the cultural allusions may not strike a receptive chord among all pupils. At the start of the book there is a reference to a Spice Girls hit, Sir Clive Sinclair is pictured in unit four with his ill-starred C5 and there is a reference to Paul Newman and Robert Redford's film The Sting in unit eight. All three may be easily recalled by teachers, but do they matter to 14 to 16-year-olds?

These instances pale into insignificance when compared with the overall worth of Bryce and Wilson's achievement. The book is comprehensive and yet concise. Many of the units seem to say all that matters about their topics for Standard grade pupils. To sum up, it's value for money.

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