Of the many skills needed to teach effectively, the ability to make your subject relevant to your audience ranks pretty high. Being able to engage your students is an essential part of the learning process and often the best way to make your subject relevant is to put it in a familiar context.
Financial Education is now part of the new National Curriculum proposals and, at first glance, this might seem like an easy subject to engage students with. After all, everyone needs and uses money, so it should appeal to everyone. Shouldn’t it?
If only things were that simple. We know from our own experience of teaching in schools that young adults are interested in the subject. However, that interest really piques when they start to understand how money is just one part of the system of education, employment, housing and the other economic issues they will face beyond school. In other words, once it is put in the context of the world around them and they can see the relevance of it.
Effective financial education is about much more than just being able to budget or calculate interest payments. It’s about comprehending the world we live in and understanding how employment is essential to building a life of your own. It should be thought of in a similar way to English – learning to read and write are not the end goals of the subject, they are the first steps to developing your comprehension of language and the power it possesses. Concepts such as budgeting and interest calculations are key components of financial education but on their own they provide only a cursory understanding of the subject.
For financial education to make a real difference to the lives of young people, it needs to reflect their lives and help them to understand the society they live in. Knowing what is required of them to get a job, why they pay tax, what it means when the government ‘spends’ money, and understanding their obligations when they sign a contract on a property or with a bank, are all elements of financial education. If we want to produce a generation that is financially literate, then we need to look beyond the basics and provide a relevant and fully-rounded understanding of the subject.