Why Schools Should Be Teaching Kids About Money
The continuing financial and economic problems in the US and many parts of the world, record levels of personal debt and many individuals experiencing the misery of financial hardship have highlighted the need for better financial education. By providing financial education for children in school from an early age we can help set them on the path to greater financial awareness and control.
Financial literacy classes are slowly being introduced in several parts of the US and other countries including Scotland, Australia, Canada and Taiwan. Governments are gradually waking up to the fact that financial ignorance can lead to the sort of stress that affects health, relationships and the fabric of society.
Teaching kids about money is an important element of preparing young people for adult life, which in turn is one of the main purposes of the school system. Lessons in money and financial matters can be integrated into many other existing subjects, such as math, citizenship, social studies and with some imagination into art, design and technical subjects.
So too in elementary schools, where a theme based approach to learning lends itself well to introducing ideas and concepts around money to younger children. Many of our habits and values are formed in childhood, so an understanding of key money concepts such as saving and borrowing will contribute to a solid foundation of financial literacy.
One of the main arguments for teaching financial literacy in schools is that it guarantees a uniform, baseline of knowledge for all young people. Admittedly the quality and effectiveness of classes about money will vary from school to school, region to region, yet a basic level of delivery can be assured.
Teachers in general have the skills of explanation, motivation and effective delivery. They also have access to resources, books and technology. Several surveys have highlighted the lack of knowledge or confidence that many teachers have in delivering lessons on money. Good quality resources however, backed up with training and support will help to address this need.
It would be a mistake to put the sole responsibility of financial education down to schools; parents too have a role to play. Whilst at school however, children are in a learning environment and therefore may be more receptive. Some parents lack the necessary time, expertise or interest to teach their children about money. This may perpetuate a downward spiral, where a lack of awareness and financial capability is passed from generation to generation.
In conclusion, schools should be encouraged and supported to provide at least a minimum explanation of key financial education as a safety net for those unable to access the information for themselves. This will entail either making space in the curriculum or seeking opportunities to extract financial lessons from existing subjects. Adequate time and funding needs to be made available to provide both the resources and training necessary for individuals to feel confident in teaching children about money. That does not prevent parents and indeed young people themselves from taking the initiative and accessing a range of financial information themselves.