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Curriculum & Leadership Journal
An electronic journal for leaders in education
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MoneySmart Teaching: bringing financial literacy lessons to life in the classroom

Peter Kell
Peter Kell is a Commissioner with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.

Knowing how to manage money is one of the most important and challenging features of everyday life. Peter Kell explains how a new program developed by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) is helping educators across Australia teach young people about money.

Today's younger generations interact with money and make choices as consumers from an early age. They are growing up in a fast-paced consumer society where money is increasingly 'invisible', where they have an increasingly complex range of financial products to choose from, and where individuals carry a greater level of responsibility for the decisions they make.

Financial literacy is about understanding money and finances and being able to confidently apply that knowledge to make effective consumer choices and financial decisions. Regardless of age, knowing how to make sound money decisions is a core life skill. The question is, whose responsibility is it to teach our young people these skills and how do we, as educators, teach it in a real and meaningful way?

Effective integration of consumer and financial education into schools is the cornerstone to bringing about long-term generational change in knowledge, attitudes and behaviours. In August 2010 the Australian Government unveiled Helping Our Kids Understand Finances (HOKUF), an initiative to improve financial literacy in Australian schools. ASIC, as the lead agency for consumer and financial literacy in Australia, is heading up this project, which directly aligns with the organisation's focus on promoting the confident and informed participation of investors and consumers in the financial system.

What is MoneySmart Teaching?

The HOKUF initiative is publically known as MoneySmart Teaching, a comprehensive strategy to develop teacher capacity to confidently teach consumer and financial literacy within Phase 1 of the Australian Curriculum. MoneySmart Teaching will provide a range of free quality resources to help educators integrate consumer and financial education into the classroom. Among these resources are professional learning packages for primary and secondary schools, which provide teachers with self-contained integrated units of work linked to the Australian Curriculum across the disciplines of mathematics, science and English.

In August this year ASIC launched the MoneySmart Teaching package for primary schools. The package is now being trialled in 57 schools nationally across the public, Catholic and independent education sectors. Resources for secondary schools will be released in December and are expected to be trialled in approximately 35 schools between now and June 2013.

Student resources on consumer and financial education

Through MoneySmart Teaching, students learn about planning, saving, spending, donating and investing by applying these principles to real-life situations. For example, in a year 6 mathematics unit called It’s raining cats, dogs ... and chickens, students learn about equivalent fractions, decimals and percentages by investigating the costs of pet ownership. In the year 8 unit, How can we access money overseas?, students explore the concepts of currency and currency conversion in the context of overseas travel.

By using real-life contexts, MoneySmart Teaching gives students the opportunity to learn:

  • how to manage their finances and plan for their needs and wants, now and into the future
  • the language of money, how to navigate the ever-changing consumer and financial landscape and where to go to for assistance
  • the rights and responsibilities of consumers in modern society and the wider impact of everyday consumer and financial decisions
  • how to develop a range of enterprising behaviours.

Both packages are linked to the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework (MCEECDYA 2011) and provide teachers with support materials to teach consumer and financial literacy through the Australian Curriculum from Foundation to year 10.

Earlier this year ASIC also unveiled its MoneySmart Teaching website, a national hub for high-quality consumer and financial literacy resources from ASIC and a range of providers including other government departments, consumer protection agencies, banks and other financial institutions. These resources include digital activities and videos for use in the classroom, which combine colourful graphics, interactive elements and audio to introduce young people to financial literacy by teaching them real-life skills.

For example, Ava makes a difference is an interactive picture book for students in lower primary. In the story, Ava's class makes pancakes for a fundraiser and Ava learns about the importance of assisting others. With the help of Ava and her friends, five to seven-year-olds learn to recognise and use Australian currency. They also learn the difference between 'needs' and 'wants' and are introduced to the concept of 'earning' money. A set of digital resources will be released to support the picture book in 2013.

Today, three out of four children own a mobile phone by the time they start secondary school, while 90 per cent of 15 to 17-year-olds own a mobile (ACMA 2007). Through MoneySmart Teaching, older children (11 to 14 years) will learn how to use their mobile phones responsibly in a series of digital activities. Topics include avoiding 'bill shock', securing your phone and avoiding scams. These digital activities are free, designed to be used on computers, iPads and interactive whiteboards and will be available on www.teaching.moneysmart.gov.au in 2013. Parent and teacher notes will also be available to guide the use of these activities in the classroom or at home.

Teacher professional learning

Teachers play a pivotal role in financial literacy education at school, especially in the development of values, critical-thinking capabilities and the confidence to apply knowledge and skills in a range of situations. The extent to which financial literacy is successfully taught in schools depends very much upon effective teaching. This in turn relies on professional learning that builds the capacity in teachers to develop the relevant knowledge and skills, as well as their confidence in teaching the subject matter.

To this end, ASIC has also developed online professional learning modules which provide further guidance about integrating consumer and financial education into specific learning areas of the Australian Curriculum for primary and secondary school teachers. Online delivery will increase awareness of and access to the MoneySmart School concept and will be particularly useful for teachers in rural and remote areas. It will also extend professional learning opportunities to pre-service teachers.

Face-to-face in-school professional learning is also being provided to primary and secondary school teachers across Australia. A minimum of 6,000 teachers are expected to complete this training by June 2013.

International and national prominence of financial literacy

ASIC's financial literacy work in Australian schools is part of a wider international effort to develop and assess the financial literacy of students worldwide.

Since the commencement of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2000, 15-year-old students have been assessed in English, mathematics and science. Problem solving was added in 2006, and in 2012 a financial literacy option was added. This year Australia was one of 18 countries to participate in the Financial Literacy Assessment which tests 15-year-olds on their knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and their ability to apply this to everyday situations.

This is the first large-scale international study designed to assess the financial literacy of young people and will provide participating countries with an international benchmark on the financial literacy of 15-year-olds. In Australia, ASIC has funded the 2012 Financial Literacy PISA assessment.

Improving the financial literacy of young people is a collective effort by many agencies; and the key to the success of MoneySmart Teaching is collaboration. ASIC is delighted with the willingness of state and territory education departments to trial the MoneySmart Teaching packages in their jurisdictions. We look forward to further strengthening our partnerships with the Australian Government, the education sector and industry. Together, we can help young people develop skills and behaviours that will last a lifetime.

For more information on MoneySmart Teaching and access to resources, visit www.teaching.moneysmart.gov.au


Subject Headings

Financial literacy
Teaching and learning
Teaching profession