Consumer and financial literacy: implementing professional learning for teachers nationally
The words of the nineteenth-century novelist Charles Dickens (1812–70) in the Tale of Two Cities have a freakish resonance with the dramatic times we face today. He wrote:
How well is the education sector preparing students to meet the challenges of market volatility and waning consumer confidence in 2008? In fact, a thoroughly developed financial literacy strategy is currently being implemented throughout the Australian school system.
The current school initiative emerged from a 2004 national inquiry into how Australians manage their money in the face of the increasing choice and complexity confronting consumers.
The Australian Government established the Financial Literacy Foundation within Treasury in 2005. The Foundation focused on raising awareness of consumer issues and encouraging all Australians to better manage their money. It drew on research to date which showed the need for a focus on basic building blocks:
The Foundation developed three education strategies, covering school education, higher education and VET, and workplaces. This article focuses on the school education strategy and its implementation.
At the end of 2005, a National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework was jointly endorsed by the Catholic, Independent and Government school sectors and fair trading agencies in all states and territories, under the auspices of MCEETYA. The Framework defined consumer and financial literacy as the ‘application of knowledge and understanding, skills and values in consumer and financial contexts and the related decisions that impact on self, others, the community and the environment’. The Framework, to be integrated into all K–10 curriculums by 2008, applied across English, Maths, Science, Civics and Citizenship and Information and Communications Technology.
In 2006 and 2007 the Foundation consulted extensively with stakeholders to identify what teachers, professional associations and systems needed in order to implement this Framework. In 2007–08 the Foundation partnered with Curriculum Corporation and the Department of Education Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), through the Australian Government's Quality Teaching program, to develop a Professional Learning Package which would build teacher and system capacity.
July 1, 2008 saw the functions and work of the Foundation move to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). In 2008–09 ASIC is partnering with Catholic, Independent and Government schools and professional associations in all states and territories for the support and the rollout of professional learning nationally.
A forward work plan will see ASIC partner with schools, business and community in 2009–11 to implement a Principal/School Leader strategy. The focus will be on promoting a whole-school approach to consumer and financial literacy by connecting parents, business and the community to what is already happening around financial literacy in schools.
Professional learning materials for facilitators and teachers
Currently, teacher training packages and a website are helping deliver the Consumer and Financial Literacy program. The website includes detailed guides for facilitators and classroom teachers. Topical areas include budgeting, banking, credit cards, mobile phone plans and superannuation.
Consumer and Financial Literacy is to be integrated across all learning areas in schools by broadly the focusing on four areas:
These areas of study are stepped, building on each other and mutually interdependent.
Consumer and financial literacy as a school responsibility
It is widely accepted and understood that parents are not always comfortable discussing their finances with their children. Many are themselves struggling with their credit cards and debt. Schools and educators have traditionally demonstrated their capacity to foster cultural change and create good habits of mind. Educators know how to teach students to think critically, reflect, develop and apply deep knowledge and understanding – with a focus on student wellbeing and a student's effective participation in and contribution to society.
The school strategy and its implementation is a significant catalyst for generational change. It marks a definite shift in thinking and attitude, acknowledging consumer and financial literacy as a core life skill for all young people. While contributing to a young person's wellbeing it will also contribute to the wellbeing of society.
Historically, consumer literacy and financial literacy were taught as electives in commerce, economics, accounting and business in the senior years, exposing only a small percentage of students to this learning and skill development. The new framework gives financial literacy a place in the education of every Australian student.
Subject HeadingsFinancial literacy