Starting the Conversation: Compulsory Financial Literacy in Schools

Kendall Flutey

Kendall Flutey


During election campaigning, both major New Zealand political parties committed to supporting school based financial literacy. This is highly relevant to the mission we’re on at Banqer (of seeing every student prepared for their financial future), but moreso, I couldn’t help but spare a thought for our amazing community of educators and what this would mean for them.

Contextualised within a post-pandemic schooling system, an ongoing curriculum refresh (Te Mātaiaho) with meaty new curriculum content, and the increasing challenges schools are navigating to ensure student wellbeing and outcomes, more change and uncertainty would naturally be overwhelming.

It’s for those reasons why I was blown away by the general openness and adaptability of those who attended a webinar we recently hosted; Compulsory Financial Literacy in Schools. The intent of this webinar was to facilitate a forum where we could bring together a range of educators and education senior leaders to start the dialogue around what this might mean for schools in 2024 and beyond.

Harnessing in-school expertise to shape education's future

Whilst naturally, there is still a lot of water to go under the political bridge and therefore a lot we don’t know, it’s important to me that whatever changes come our way happen with us, not to us. In the decade I’ve worked on the perimeter of the New Zealand education system I’ve increasingly come to understand that the best outcomes come directly from our schools - they already have a lot of the answers. What they don’t necessarily have is the time, financial resources, or aren’t ‘holding the pen’ they need to be to implement the changes that would drive the students outcomes we all want to see.

By starting this conversation early, my goal was to unearth those existing answers held by our educators, while also learning from those who have gone before us in an international context. Despite some major technical challenges I feel we took those first steps thanks to our incredible panel (of Rob Clarke, Jarrod Kerr, Holly Bennett, and Carole Fullerton), and contributions from the educators who attended, and connected with us after the event.

For those who couldn’t make it, you can check out the main recording here, and also see a one on one catch-up I had with Carole here (and keep an eye out for my future one on one calls with Rob and Jarrod).

the five participants in the banqer webinar, carole fullerton, jarrod kerr, holly bennett, rob clarke and host kendall flutey

For those time-poor amongst us, I did want to share my top five takeaways from the conversation so far so that you and your school can consider what this impending change means for you within your community:

1. Define financially literate

Inspired by Carole’s parting words to me, having a measure of success for your school and community or what it means to you when a student is financially literate naturally feels like the best place to start. This definition will (and should) vary from school to school, community to community. And whilst there may be a national-level measure of this, financial literacy isn’t a binary measure, so starting with what works for you and overlaying that with whatever eventually is applied sector-wide will position you, your peers, and your students for success.

2. Keep it local

Building on the above, compulsory doesn’t have to mean one size fits all. Rob reminded us of the power and potency of the agency placed within our school system for individual schools to craft a solution that fits their context. 88.9% of those who tuned into our webinar are already delivering financial literacy in some shape or form (that’s good news for the government), and 61.1% of them were doing so through their local curriculum. If you’re part of the 11.1% who are yet to explore financial literacy at your school, leaning into your local curriculum is the next step you can take to be best prepared for compulsory financial literacy in schools.

3. Look to existing learning areas

As we heard, Canada’s financial literacy mandate occurred through a phased approach that leveraged their Mathematics learning area. A specific requirement to apply a practical financial lens across Mathematics learning outcomes and activities means that financial literacy is embedded across all year levels. This comes to life through the likes of number recognition in financial terms, right through to operating with whole numbers, decimals, fractions, percentages, rates, and ratios in a financial context. We have very little explicit reference to financial literacy within the New Zealand Curriculum (and to date, Te Mātaiaho actually has less). Over 60% of our webinar attendees told us that explicit inclusion of financial literacy in the NZ Curriculum would make them feel the most optimistic about the requirement to implement financial literacy at their school and application within specific learning areas (social sciences, mathematics, or otherwise) could be a vehicle for this. Fun fact: the second most material influence on educator optimism for the meditation of financial literacy was a specific financial literacy budget for schools.

4. Look to pastoral care

Without mandate or explicit curriculum links, there is an emerging placement of financial literacy within a pastoral care or student well-being context. We heard from Rob and other educators on the webinar that financial literacy doesn’t have to be curriculum-aligned to be meaningful and successful. This can also allow year-level-wide adoption of financial literacy.

5. Have your say

While we don’t know what this process will look like, Holly reminded us of the importance of being active participants in determining what the process will be and sharing education sector perspectives directly with our MPs. On top of this, Banqer has committed to supporting a mechanism of collective and sharing perspectives with the central government if and when we get the opportunity to do so.

So where to from here? 

While there is a strong element of wait and see, the general sentiment from the educators who have engaged in this conversation to date is that financial literacy already exists within a lot of our schools nationally. For those who are newer to the game, this means that while local contextualisation is important, we can also learn and adapt from what our local peers are doing (whilst looking further afield to those who have navigated mandation).

In the new year, I plan on picking the conversation back up and showcasing a handful of educators who have approached in-school financial literacy effectively for their school and teaching communities. I’d love for you to join us, so stay tuned for updates.

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