These students face real economic pressures. Mandatory financial literacy courses can help
November is financial literacy month and there was no hiding from the scary economic news, even for high school students.
« I can see prices going up in terms of the food I buy, the clothes I buy, and regular student finances, » said Anand Desaigoudar, a Grade 12 student at Old Scona Academic High School in Edmonton. .
Inflation, rising interest rates and fears of a recession are worrisome, even for kids who say they feel lucky. Desaigoudar’s classmate Aurora Shi worries about college and beyond.
« There’s not really a buffer between the stadium where my parents pay for everything and the stadium where I pay for everything, » Shi said. « So I think learning about money is important so that I can prepare for my future. »
About 30 students attended the optional financial literacy lesson during their lunch break last week. The course, which focuses on frauds and scams, is an example of the evolution of financial education.
Whether it’s math or other courses, several provinces have recently revised the financial literacy courses offered to elementary through high school students.
Gary Rabbior is President of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE) in Toronto, a not-for-profit organization that develops financial literacy programs and tools for schools.
He says financial matters – from online shopping to investing to debt management – have become much more complex than before and believes there should be a mandatory financial literacy course taught in schools. high schools in Canada.
« We owe it to our children to be able to educate them, to empower them to make the best decisions they can make. »
Financial education is changing
As economic pressures increase, Rabbior says the need for relevant financial education becomes more evident.
« I think a lot of people’s heads are spinning with the kind of change that’s happening, the kinds of economic factors that are affecting their lives. »
Often taught in math, financial literacy is also part of accounting, economics, entrepreneurship, social studies, and physical education and wellness classes in some provinces.
British Columbia overhauled the way it teaches financial education, primarily math, from K-12 in 2018, with Yukon and the Northwest Territories adopting their new curriculum.
Ontario has revised how financial literacy is taught in a career studies course in 2020 and math courses in 2021.
This summer, Alberta announced it would update its financial literacy program to give students « the financial knowledge and skills essential for personal and professional success. »
The changes involve a $5 million investment with three independent partners to develop financial literacy programs over the next three years, $1.5 million of which will go to CFS.
Alberta teaches financial literacy in math, social studies and a required grade 10 course “Career and Life Management”.
Newfoundland and Labrador updated its mandatory career education course for high school students this fall to include more lessons on personal financial literacy, after launching the class just two years ago. .
Rabbior says these life skills-type courses are the perfect place for financial education.
« It’s a very efficient way to do it because you’re really planning for the life ahead, both the career you’re going to have, the money you’re going to make, and how you’re going to manage it effectively. »
While he applauds provinces moving to update their financial literacy programs, he also says how these lessons are being implemented across the country is « quite haphazard and unstable in terms of different approaches. which are adopted ».
Make financial literacy courses mandatory
Rabbior wants every province to create a mandatory high school course just on financial literacy to « set everything in place for kids before they enter the world of financial decision-making. »
« It’s kind of our last chance to make sure kids have the knowledge and skills they need, » he said.
This fall, Saskatchewan launched two high school courses focused solely on financial literacy, but they are optional. Although Rabbior says they’re well-designed, if the courses don’t count as college credit courses, students often don’t take them.
Edmonton teacher Gerald Chung says he’s not sure a mandatory financial literacy course would work nationally, given that each province handles education differently.
The student business club instructor at Old Scona Academic says that while he likes the idea of a required course, many educators argue that “financial literacy can be taught in other courses” which are already mandatory.
But Vanessa Bowen, a financial advisor and CPA in Toronto, says a mandatory course exclusively for financial literacy makes sense.
Bowen is the founder of Mint Worthy Co. Inc., a financial education platform for women. When she was fresh out of school and taking on a new accounting job, she had trouble renting an expensive condo and spending too much on dinners and clothes.
She says she slipped into a financial crisis that she says could have been avoided if she had been able to take a course on personal financial planning in high school.
“I would have avoided a lot of those financial mistakes,” Bowen said. « Oh my God, that would have helped me make immensely better decisions. »
She says such a class could even “change the trajectory of our economy, the way people spend, the level of debt we have.” But she says parents also have a role to play in teaching financial responsibility.
Money and sanity
Rabbior hopes students learn the skills they need in school to be not only financially competent, but financially capable.
« We try to do more than just help kids choose the right credit card. We try to develop the skills and knowledge that will help them stay in control of their lives. »
The idea of control is important, he says, because studies show a very close correlation Between financial health and mental health.
Shi, the student from Edmonton, is feeling some financial stress.
« It’s kind of overwhelming at the moment, because…the things I should worry about going forward are like rent and like paying for my own food and paying school fees. »
She noted that it’s easy to buy things without thinking, but said, « As soon as you have to pay back, you realize that your decisions have a real impact on your future. »