Study calls for financial literacy shakeup

A study from Griffith University has recommended financial literacy by taught in a standalone subject to high school aged students or, at the least, through a co-curricular program during pastoral care.

Funded by Suncorp and the Financial Basics Foundation, the report’s findings were based on interviews and focus groups conducted at four Queensland schools in regional and urban areas.

Speaking to Money Management, co-author of the report, Dr Laura de Zwaan, said one of the biggest takeaways of the report was that many students struggled to explain financial concepts such as compound interest, let alone the calculations that were currently included in their curriculum.

And the other big takeaway was that most students appeared to be good savers but upon further evaluation, they were passive rather than active savers. That was because discussions with older students who had expenses revealed they did not know how to moderate spending in order to save.

De Zwaan said financial literacy was only taught in mathematics up to year 10 and in lower levels of mathematics in year 11 and 12 and that the way it was taught was not “entirely relevant”.

“A lot of the students we’ve talked say maths is their least favourite subject so it’s not a great place to house it if people are already disliking that particular subject,” de Zwaan said.

“They might be teaching things like share prices, which is interesting as the kids always tell us they want to know about investing. But I think the way it’s taught isn’t going to connect with them because they’re not actually buying shares themselves at that age.”

The report aspired for a standalone subject, or at the least, a co-curriculum program that could emulate what was seen in many states in the United States in which students learnt about basic financial literacy over several weeks during pastoral care or home room.

De Zwaan said teachers could utilise information from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s (ASIC) Moneysmart website or invite in education organisations.

“I think that it’s about harnessing what’s already out there and then bringing it into the schools,” she said.

“The big thing I think we need to rethink is how we deliver it currently, and I think just moving that focus from calculations to concepts, because the kids can understand the concepts and if you have those stories to go along with them, then they’re going to get more out of it.”

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