It’s no revelation that there is an appalling education gap in Australia, with the level of remoteness, socioeconomic status and indigeneity directly influencing the quality of education and resources available to students. Australia’s education gap - due in part to its sheer land mass, but certainly exacerbated by misdirected funding - is larger than the average of all OECD countries: Indigenous students are on average 2.5 years behind their non-indigenous counterparts; going on location alone, remote students are two years behind metro students; and students whose parents fall in low income brackets are 2.5 years behind their high income peers.
With Banqer, we have a financial literacy tool proven to improve capabilities in primary school students that is borderless in its application and use, and due to the generosity of our partner, free to classrooms in Australia. Since our launch in Australia six months ago we have steadily grown our profile and have over 4000 students engaged in experiential financial learning, many of them in rural and remote areas of Australia.
So last week, I took to the road to visit some of these schools in rural Victoria to offer support and inspiration, run exercises and auctions, and meet with potential supporters in the region. What follows is a short summary of the experience.
My first stop was Carraragarmungee Primary, a tiny school of two classrooms on the road to Eldorado National Park. Principal/teacher Marie and I set up her classroom economy with a basic income, discussed ideas for classroom expenses, jobs, payments/fines and printed off some of the lesson plans from the resource hub.
The following morning was spent with three teachers at Wangaratta Primary. They had hit the ground running a month prior and were thrilled with the level of classroom engagement they had seen already. It was a high energy session throwing around ideas for the roll out of the program in their school in 2018.
That meeting was followed by another in a local coffee shop with ex teacher come digital technology office for Catholic Education Sandhurst, David Williams, who immediately saw the value of the platform and understood the potential of its impact on financial literacies in the area. David wrote up and published a powerful endorsement of Banqer that afternoon.
From there I visited schools in Katamatite, Ballarat, Strathfieldsaye, Edenhope and Port Fairy, exploring financial concepts such as expenses, interest, needs vs wants, and taxation with 6-12 year olds. Many surprised me with their reasonable attribution of value to money and savvy attitude towards making it. I ran auctions with classes that varied from the wild and frenetic to the considered and refrained. I heard stories from teachers that motivated and moved me. Like the one kid who logged onto Banqer at home to transfer a dollar to each of his classmates for being “kind” that day. Or the kid that discovered he could earn some easy money by bringing a collection of hats to school and charging them out at 5 Banqer dollars for students wanting to avoid the 10 dollar fine for not wearing one.
It was great to meet the teachers and talk about their journey with Banqer so far, to hear the praise for the platform, the improvements in motivation and attitudes they have seen in the classroom, and the excitement as we discussed ideas for enabling modules and simulating financial experiences for their students. They were chuffed I made the effort to visit and I found the trip so humbling and vital that I intend to commit more time in the coming months to connecting in person with other rural and remote areas around the country, as without the barriers of cost and implementation Banqer is well positioned to play a role in closing the education gap in Australia.