Wednesday, February 9, 2011

National Report on Canadians and Their Money: Canada's Task Force on Financial Literacy Finally Releases Recommendations

I first blogged about Flaherty's twelve-member Task Force on Financial Literacy shortly after they released their preliminary report in September. I have been anxiously waiting for the final draft ever since. How will the federal government "make" schools weave financial literacy into the curriculum when education is under provincial jurisdiction? All the recommendations in the world for "financial literacy education from K-12" won't mean a thing without the power (and resources) to make it happen.

So, of course the first page in the 106-page report that I turned to was the one talking about their recommendations for financial literacy in the formal education system, recommendation number three out of a total of thirty that states:
The Task Force recommends that the Government of Canada include financial literacy as an essential skill in its Essential Skills Framework.
The Essential Skills Framework consists of nine workplace skills that are "officially recognized" by the federal government including: reading, document use, numeracy, writing, thinking and continuous learning, interpersonal skills (oral communication and working with others), and applied skills like computer use. Apparently, this framework is used by educational organizations (from K-12 through post-secondary) as a curriculum guide so adding financial literacy as an essential skill may indeed be a catalyst for integrating financial literacy in elementary and high schools, which is part of recommendation number three.
We commend those authorities who are taking steps to address financial literacy, and urge all provinces and territories to move expeditiously to make financial literacy a part of their formal education system.
What I found interesting, and a little scary, is that BC was held up as an example of a province that has already done this by making financial education mandatory. But, the truth is that in BC our kids (the ones who don't take business or accounting courses in high school) get just four weeks of financial education in Planning 10 which is a course that is mandatory for graduation. I'm pretty sure that four weeks of education does not qualify as integration. Or, at least, it should not.

I would rather see my province follow in the footsteps of Manitoba where financial literacy is currently being integrated into the K-12 curriculum or in Ontario where they are weaving it into grades 4 -12.

Our finance minister, Jim Flaherty, will be making an announcement about these findings today. I'll be watching and wondering where we go from here and whether or the conversation will continue on a national level.

Further Reading
The chair and vice chair of the Task Force summarize the "five keys" of financial literacy in the Globe & Mail (Feb. 10, 2011 edition).

Rob Carrick warns the financial industry that a more financially literate population means more questions for the industry about disclosure of fees in the Globe & Mail (Feb. 10, 2011 edition).

"Guardian of the Chicken Coop stands firm," in National Post (March 2, 2011).

"New Book Helps Ontario Teachers Improve Financial Literacy and Personal Finances" Canadian News Wire press release, March 8, 2011.

Copyright 2010. Laura Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
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