Financial literacy, arguably one of the most important concepts to understand in order for students to achieve independence, stability and long term health, remains disturbingly underrepresented in the Australian curriculum. Of the eight agreed core national learning areas, personal finance is represented in the secondary curriculum as a sub topic with an antiquated title, ‘Home Economics’. Of the seven agreed upon general capabilities, financial literacy is not registered, though in 2011 a Framework was published to offer principals and teachers a rationale for financial education and provide guidance for implementing consumer and financial learning across years Foundation-10.
We have effectively left an essential learning area to chance; the slim chance that kids may have parents that possess the understanding and resources to educate their children on finances; or the chance that they have a teacher with the drive, time and energy to develop an effective learning pursuit outside of the curriculum.
The social ramifications of this neglect in the school curriculum are devastating: national credit card debt is over 50 billion, and Australian household debt is close to the highest worldwide. Gen X are characterised by demographers as stressed out consumers who use their earnings mainly on their children, aging parents and mortgages, where Millennials are twice as likely as the average Gen X or Baby Boomer to rely on credit card to “maintain their lifestyle”. No doubt about it, we are as a nation struggling with debt.
Thankfully, a public discourse is emerging that recognises the seriousness of the Australian debt problem. We are starting to see the word ‘crisis’ next to debt and calls for solutions are becoming louder. As adults we can seek advice, and there are more and more affordable options entering the market. There are also workshops, meetups and seminars on financial wellness held regularly in the major centers. Some of them are free. But in the area where we can most effectively improve financial capabilities - youth - it is slim pickings. There are bank led education initiatives that have recently been the subject of a public critique propelled by the media. There is the MoneySmart government initiative that offers good teaching resources and support in the form of professional development courses, but requires significant time and energy to implement. And then there is the independent platform, Banqer, which as a representative I obviously believe in as a viable solution. However, as long as financial literacy is excluded from the curriculum it will only ever be an option, available to some, but not all.
We know that the three factors that most significantly impact our quality of life are our mental, physical and financial health. It is encouraging that we are finally starting to talk about money, and the concern amongst parents in particular is palpable. I believe the majority would agree, financial literacy should be included in the national curriculum, so in the meantime let’s embolden our discourse and take action, because without it the next generation will inherit their parents habits, or worse, as money and exchange fast approach invisibility.
Insights from Liz (Banqer team member and financial education advocate). This post was originally posted on Liz's Linkedin page.