What does financial education actually LOOK like?

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If you ask those who have gone through the school system in the UK on whether they have received any sort of financial education, you would almost always get a straightforward shake of the head. Money skills are taught in maths, but from only around year 6 to 11. Even then, only subjects around public finances such as taxes are tested. More than a third of people in the UK say that they don’t have the right skills to effectively manage their money. Payments UK have found that there is significant illiteracy around the meaning of some of the most common financial terms, for example, only 31% of 18–34 year olds knew what APR signifies. With UK personal debt at £1.45 trillion, there’s never been a more important time to create well money versed individuals.

The dire state of financial education has inspired many to create solutions. One such idea is Global Money Week (GMW), a celebration of money skills; with 5.6 million children and youth across 124 countries participating in 2015 alone. Initiatives such as Ashoka Fellow’s Lily Lapenna’s organisation, MyBnk have sprung up to fill in the gap of financial illiteracy in order to create more well-rounded individuals in society. They do this by delivering programmes on money management and enterprise creation. The charity’s mission is “to empower young people to take charge of their future by bringing money and enterprise to life.” Their work has been greeted with an enthusiastic reception: MyBnk has won numerous awards including the Community Education Award and the Children and Young Person’s Charity Award from Children & Young people.

I recently had the opportunity to observe one of MyBnk’s money lessons programmes at Mossbourne Victoria Park Academy. I witnessed the first session of their Money Twist programme which acts to build a simple but yet solid foundation of financial literacy for 11–14 year olds over 2–3 sessions. The programme is workshop based and heavily hands-on, away from the traditional passive learning methods of teaching that is all too common in today’s classrooms. The programme was rated as the most effective money skills programme for young people by the government’s Money Advice Service.

I soon understood why MyBnk is an award winning charity and why their programmes are popular amongst young people and educators. The active engagement of the students was testament to the programme’s success. A concoction of enthusiastic programme delivery and relevant content material makes the programme a recipe for success.
From naming all the alternatives for the word “money” to meticulously identifying fake notes busing a magnifying glass and a UV counterfeit money detector, the lessons were extremely varied. My Bnk even included a small history lesson on the origins of money was part of the programme. The programme engaged numerical skills by getting the students to convert between currencies so to gain an appreciation of the value of the pound and how things have different value around the world. Ethical spending was also part of the conversation, where ideas exchanged around whether it is ok to buy clothes from a company that isn’t environmentally friendly or doesn’t pay its staff well in third world countries. Getting the students to differentiate between a need and a want proved to be a thought provoking topic.
In a nationwide study, 80% of pupils expressed desire for financial education lessons that were interactive and 39% of teachers felt money management skills, as currently taught, would make no difference to how young people see monetary issues. It is therefore time to properly fund financial education and back what works. Initiatives such as MyBnk are part of the wider piece of the puzzle in creating empowered and equipped citizens.

- By Aiden Albayaty. Education Volunteer Ashoka UK.

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