Thursday, September 23, 2010

What They Heard About Kids & Money: Canada's Task Force on Financial Literacy Releases Summary Report

In the wake of the financial crisis a light bulb went off in someone's head on Parliament Hill. "Duh...maybe there is a connection between financial illiteracy and the economy." And, ta-da! a task force was born.

In June 2009, our Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty, appointed 13 brave souls (including bankers, financial consultants, publishers, a journalist, and professor) to the Task Force for Financial Literacy and asked them to figure out how the government can "formulate a national strategy to strengthen the financial literacy of Canadians."

Yesterday, after months of zero activity on Twitter (FinLitTaskForce) and Facebook, they finally released a summary of what they heard from the public. They called it "What We Heard." Let's take a listen to the parts that relate to teaching our kids about money...

What is the Task Force's definition of financial literacy?
Having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions.

What did the Task Force hear from people about existing educational efforts?
That many outside groups (credit unions, curriculum developers, volunteers, some government agencies) are having some success bringing financial training to our schools. On the issue of turning financial literacy education over to the schools, concern was expressed for teachers "who are often overburdened with existing teaching requirements and who may feel uncomfortable teaching in this subject area, especially if they themselves are lacking in financial expertise" (p. 10).

What fundamentals do current educational efforts consist of?
Budgeting, consumer education, borrowing and, to a lesser extent, compound interest.

What did the Task Force hear about "when" financial literacy should be delivered?
"There was wide agreement that financial literacy should be offered throughout the elementary and high school years" (p. 11-12).

What did they hear about "how" it should be delivered?
Apparently there were conflicting opinions especially over whether financial literacy should be a stand-alone subject area or integrated into math, economics, social studies or home economics.

About "who" should deliver it?
Again their was conflict over whether or not it should just be teachers or teachers with the help of financial sector volunteers.

Overall, what did they hear?
That there should be more financial literacy education in the school system and that even though education is not the jurisdiction of the national government that Ottawa should nonetheless "lead or support the national effort to introduce financial education in the provincial and territorial school systems by identifying core, age-appropriate financial literacy topics" (p. 13).

It's hard to imagine what this is all going to translate to in the end when it comes to educating our kids about money. A national program in the context of our federal system seems to be a recipe for wasting tax payer dollars. A better idea might be an ad campaign aimed at families, something fun and provocative that gets us talking about money in the course of our daily activities. Or what about creating a Kids CBC show that builds financial literacy one word and concept at a time...hmmm...I wonder if Agent Story is available?

Copyright 2010. Laura Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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