3 Sep 2014
As kids across the UK wave goodbye to the happy-go-lucky freedom of summer and head back to school this week, the 11-16 year-olds will be greeted by the introduction of a new subject in their timetables: Financial Literacy.
That sounds like great news, doesn’t it? People have been banging on for years about the importance of teaching kids the value of money, so it’s wonderful to hear that we’re finally addressing the issue, isn’t it?
Well of course it is. We live in an age of entitlement where everyone seems to think the world owes them something. And for most kids these days, that “something” comes with a picture of a half-eaten Apple on it or bears a distinctive “swoosh” logo.
Teaching kids to understand money and debt is a vital life skill which we have ignored for far too long, and so finally getting financial education on the national curriculum is an incredibly important step.
But I wonder how committed the government is to the program. The decision was made over a year ago, so it’s not like it’s been a spur of the moment thing: what resources are being provided to schools, and how effective are the lessons really going to be?
Well, there are some posters which have been provided by a charity… no, sadly I’m not kidding: thanks to a personal donation by Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com, the Personal Finance Education Group has been able to print posters and distribute them to UK schools to make sure they have at least SOME materials to start the year. PFEG has also produced some videos to help teachers put together lesson plans, suggesting that there is currently no approved teaching schedule or other materials available.
So much for the government’s commitment to financial education in schools…
But kids are going to be taught about money now, aren’t they? Financial Literacy is on the national curriculum now, so the UK has compulsory…
“However, as the national curriculum is only compulsory for around half of schools; the rest, due to being free schools or academies, don’t need to follow it.” – Martin Lewis
But half is better than none, so we’re making steps in the right direction, aren’t we? Tell me, how often will Jake and Taneesha be taking the new Financial Literacy classes? Once or twice a week? Will there be homework? Will it be examined? How will it work alongside their other subjects?
I’m glad you asked…
Financial Literacy Classes
The responsibility for teaching Financial Literacy will be shared between Maths and Citizenship (a.k.a. Personal, Social and Health Education). According to the details in the maths curriculum, we’re looking at simple problem solving, percentages and interest. That’s all she wrote.
Citizenship looks a little better, but with no resources, no commitment and a vague plan for the predicted outcomes, I’m back to wondering how effective this is all going to be.
- “Citizenship should prepare pupils to take their place in society as responsible citizens, manage their money well and make sound financial decisions.”
- “The national curriculum for citizenship aims to ensure that all pupils are equipped with the skills to think critically and debate political questions, to enable them to manage their money on a day-to-day basis, and plan for future financial needs.
- “Key Stage 4 Citizenship students should be taught income and expenditure, credit and debt, insurance, savings and pensions, financial products and services, and how public money is raised and spent.”
Even back in September last year, Alison Pask of the IFS School of Finance (another charity) questioned how effective the new curriculum would be in teaching money management:
“The IFS School of Finance remains skeptical that dumping financial capability in Citizenship and Mathematics will deliver any meaningful change. Citizenship is already an overcrowded subject area in which financial capability is unlikely to amount to more than a few hours a term.”
Seriously, what’s the point in asking for expert opinions if you’re not going to listen to them?
You see, Jake and Taneesha aren’t going have an hour a week scheduled for financial education: they’ll be lucky to get an hour a month. And while I agree that some financial education is better than none at all, I would suggest there’s a very fine line between *almost* nothing and nothing at all.
Surely the idea should be to make a difference, shouldn’t it? Otherwise, why are we bothering?
The way the classes are currently planned (and I use the term very loosely), how likely is it that Jake will think twice before buying the latest iPhone on his credit card?
How will a lesson in simple interest help Taneesha understand the implications of the ever-increasing debt she’ll face at the end of a university education?
And how will she even begin to get her head around the idea that a £60k debt could balloon to over £800k with compound interest and inflation?
But that’s a subject for another post.
I’m interested to know what you think about the new Financial Literacy classes.
Is it important for kids to learn about money at school? Or are these new lessons just a waste of time? And how would you have benefited from learning about money and debt when you were at school?
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