Monday, September 28, 2020

Improving financial literacy in high school students

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As Australia continues to see personal debt levels grow and consumer lending products such as Afterpay surge in popularity with young Australia, calls are being made for greater efforts to be placed to improve financial literacy in our teen population.

Traditionally financial education has been integrated into the curriculum across a range of school disciplines – primarily between mathematics, home economics and dependent on the State within civics related classes. These in general are adhoc in nature and without a cohesive structure requiring a formal set of outcomes specific to achieve set goals in growing financial literacy levels. A number of alternative approaches have been suggested, including:

A specific financial literacy class: Under this structure, a set class either set for senior schoolers or as a subset within Mathematics, Home Economics or potentially Australian Studies. Challenges with this approach include funding requirements and either putting additonal strain on students in their senior years study times or reducing their workload from existing classes.

A cohesive curriculum spread between existing classes: Through a unified approach this would allow existing classes to have set defined outcomes in learning specific financial literacy topics allowing the burden to be spread across multiple classes and synergies with their existing curriculum to avoid additional workloads.

Volunteer mentorship and teaching from the community: Pilot programs through organisations such as the MFAA have successfully connected finance professionals in Australia with schools to provide free mentorship and teaching assistance to classes. This community connection allows students to get real life learning outcomes from those who work day to day with financial matters. Jess Peletier, a financial professional said that programs such as this are very popular with finance industry leaders as it gives them a chance to give back to the community and help encourage better financial literacy for the next generation. “With the work we do on a daily basis we can see families which are paying significantly for the mistakes they’ve made in the past. Through small actions at a younger age such as building a savings plan, avoiding consumer debt and building long term goals we can see young Australian’s make better financial decisions which will help them strengthen their long term futures and of Australia as a whole” Jess also notes that through partnering with those in the industry, this also helps provide a real life perspective to learning instead of reading from a text book, helping students to be more engaged and even understand more career opportunities which are available.

Vetting mentoring candidates is essential in these cases due to working with children, however industry bodies which already require significant requirements such as police checks and background screening can relieve the burden on the school system.

Improving children’s financial literary does still require a holistic approach with family input into their growing development, so getting your children engaged in family budgeting, paying bills and understanding how household finance works will pay long term dividends for your childrens financial future.

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