Financial Literacy in UK Schools

As the UK general election looms, I wanted to take the opportunity to revisit a couple of topics which are very important to me, and which I feel should be important to everyone of voting age, because they concern the way our children are educated and what kind of life we’re setting them up for in the future.

This video examines the details of the Financial Literacy policy in UK schools which was introduced in September 2014 (details below), and my next post will revisit the cost of a university education and the disastrous “50% in further education” policy introduced by the Labour government under Tony Blair.

With the exception of the UK Independence Party (who have stated that they will scrap the tuition fees for Maths, Science, Technology and Engineering degree courses), neither of these topics seem to be at the forefront of any of the political parties’ election campaigns, and my opinion – for what it’s worth – is that we are in danger of selling our younger generation down the river by providing them with sub-standard education, and by forcing them into a lifetime of debt slavery.

Financial Literacy

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 when Financial Literacy was introduced on the UK national curriculum in September 2014, it was an incredibly important step.

But I had to wonder how committed the government was going to be to the program, what resources would be provided to schools, and how effective the lessons were really going to be.

Teaching Materials

Sadly, no resources were pledged to the classes, and had it not been for the generosity of Martin Lewis of MoneySavingExpert.com, there would have been no teaching materials to start the classes off with, leaving teaching staff to muddle through on their own. As it was, the Personal Finance Education Group was able to print posters and distribute them at the beginning of the school year to make sure they at least had something to work with. The PFEG also produced some videos to help teachers put together lesson plans (suggesting that there was no approved teaching schedule or any other materials available) and I wonder what, if anything, has changed since then… what will be different when the 2015 school year starts?

Financial Literacy Classes

Then there are the classes themselves. The responsibility for teaching Financial Literacy is shared between Maths and Citizenship (a.k.a. Personal, Social and Health Education), and according to the details in the maths curriculum, they’re only remit is to deal with simple problem solving, percentages and interest. Seriously? This is the best we can manage?

Citizenship looks a little better, but with no resources, no commitment and a vague plan for the predicted outcomes, how effective do we really expect the Financial Literacy classes to be?

And it’s not like there were no warning signs: back in September 2013, Alison Pask of the IFS School of Finance questioned how effective the new curriculum would be in educating students about 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.”

The problem is, kids don’t have an hour a week scheduled for financial education: they’re lucky to get an hour a month. And while I agree that some financial education is better than none at all, is this really the best we can do?

And if it is, how can we expect teenagers and young adults to understand money management? To make sensible spending decisions and to save for their future? And how can they be expected to evaluate whether a £60,000 university degree is a bargain, or whether it’s the path to financial ruin in later life?

It’s enough to make you question whether governments actually want an educated population…

Myles Money

Myles writes about money management, debt control, student loans and financial literacy for teens, 20s and beyond. He is also a regular contributor to RealVision TV, where he discusses economic and money-related issues affecting the millennial generation.

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