Yesterday saw the government publish its new draft National Curriculum, as part of its programme of primary and secondary education reform. The new curriculum is intended to have a “stronger emphasis” on mathematics and, for the first time, financial education is to be a part of that.
The Department for Education is proposing to include financial education in the curriculum for maths and for citizenship education. This is worth noting because it means that pupils will be taught more than the mathematical aspects of money, such as how to calculate interest rates – they will be required to learn about wages, tax, credit, debt and the different types of financial services available to them when they leave school.
Organisations such as PFEG (the Personal Finance Education Group) have been campaigning for some considerable time to get financial education on to the National Curriculum and, by having the subject included in the new proposals, the first step towards this has now been achieved.
But there is still a very long way to go before we start to see all pupils leaving school with the levels of financial literacy that will make a real difference in their adult lives.
Assuming that financial education gets through the consultation process and becomes part of the new curriculum, it has yet to be determined how these topics will be taught in schools and that is where the hard work really lies.
It is incredible to think that teaching our children about employment, taxation and all of the other inter-connected issues that will affect all of them when they leave education, has not been taught in any formal way before.
However, to teach it effectively means looking at those ‘inter-connected issues’ and putting the subject matter into a real-world context. One thing that will not work is if these topics are taught as abstract concepts – knowing how to calculate compound interest or the APR of a financial product won’t help you if you don’t understand the other differences between an overdraft, a credit card and a payday loan.
Above all, the various subject elements that comprise financial education need to be linked to the notion of employment. To achieve your aspirations, you need to know how you are going to fund them and that involves more than just being able to manage your money – it requires you to understand the world of work. That is why having elements of financial education in both maths and citizenship studies is so important.
We have to ensure that schools are able to introduce programmes of financial education that relate this learning to employment and which teach the functional maths skills that young people will need to cope in their lives after education. Only then will these initial steps towards financial literacy lead our young adults along the path to success.