Does anyone still think that kids are learning about money in elementary school classrooms? Ontario’s Ministry of Education says they are but – long story short – they are not. New research has found that elementary students will learn just ten money-related words from Grades 4 to Grade 8 bringing into question Ministry claims that financial literacy is included in the curriculum. Basic money vocabulary, words like bank account, debit card, income, earning, saving, deposit, spending, expense, budgeting, borrowing, credit, compound interest, fraud and scam, cannot be found anywhere in mandatory lessons and neither can any reference to ‘wants and needs‘.
If parents want to be sure that their children are exposed to money lessons early in life, they had best be prepared to teach them themselves. In light of these new findings, in-home financial literacy educational efforts are more important than ever. When the education system doesn’t do its part, parents, some struggling on the financial literacy front themselves, must assume the responsibility for teaching kids about money.
The findings, detailed in the report entitled An Evaluation of Financial Literacy Integration into the Ontario Elementary Education System (Barry, Ek-Udofia, November 2016) should be very concerning to a number of areas of government. In addition to the negative overall effect on long-term poverty reduction strategies, specific impacts attached to financial illiteracy may include new pressures on voluntary organizations who serve the less-advantaged and increases to community and social services program funding allocations. The absence of effective financial literacy education in schools has the potential to drive up the need, cost and use of the remedial programs now offered to support young Ontarians as they transition to independence. For advocates invested in building a better Toronto, a region where 28.6 percent of children live in poverty, the situation is disheartening given that Toronto students are among the 1.3 million young people being deprived of the benefit of a ubiquitous, high-efficacy, early financial literacy education.
“This evaluation has been published in the hopes that it will serve as a catalyst for change such that all Ontario elementary students, in particular those considered vulnerable-sector, will one day have access to a quality financial literacy education in the classroom,” said Tricia Barry, Executive Director, Money School Canada, a youth financial literacy advocate and the paper’s main author.
The Ministry of Education’s performance in the elementary financial literacy educational arena is out of step with international thinking and best practices. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) publication Principles and Good Practices for Financial Education and Awareness, 2005 financial education should start as early as possible and be taught in schools. The OECD states that including financial education as part of the school curriculum is a fair and efficient policy tool and that building it into curriculums from an early age allows children to acquire the knowledge and skills to build responsible financial behavior throughout each stage of their education.
“All young Canadians deserve the opportunity to develop the financial literacy knowledge, skill and confidence they need to grow into successful, included young adults. Education systems play a major role and have a responsibility to ensure that all students are given early access to the information, tools and training they need to be successful,” Barry added.