The successful school-based programs helping kids get money smart

The successful school-based programs helping kids get money smart

Learning to manage money is important regardless of what situation one is in, but at a time when millions of people are struggling to make ends meet, strong financial literacy can mean the difference between poverty and prosperity

Since inflation began its upward trend in late 2021, many Australians have cut back on spending and rushed to pay off debts while they still can, but with a gloomy economic forecast from the likes of the Reserve Bank, the IMF and the World Bank, there are fears than an even bumpier ride lies ahead in 2024.

Because of this, there has been increasing pressure on schools in recent times to get kids financially literate. However, a challenge for schools is how to turn what is often perceived by young people as a dull subject into something they consider engaging and worthwhile.

A 2020 survey of more than 1,600 children in the UK found only a quarter (27%) enjoy learning about money at school. According to the study, the top three things that children believe would make learning about money more fun are jokes and funny stuff, games, and using “real” money in “real” situations.

Gamified financial literacy keeps kids tuned in

One organisation that has tailored its financial literacy programs to meet this demand is Banqer, a simulated online banking program for schools that provides “a hands-on environment for kids to get curious, creative, and ultimately, confident with money.”

Since its inception in 2014, the company has evolved into a sophisticated simulated virtual economy for primary and secondary schools, helping more than 300,000 students take charge of their financial future.

“To set teachers up for success, our team provides onboarding and PD before schools make a start and offer personalised support throughout the year,” Banqer’s Co-CEO, Simon Brown told The Educator.

“While the Banqer High platform is super intuitive, the difference between average or brilliant use is how Banqer is applied in the classroom context.”

To support teachers, Banqer crowdsource examples of innovative use across Australasia and inspire its community in regular newsletters.

“And, of course, our team is on call every school day to answer any questions or troubleshoot any concerns.”

Brown said student feedback suggests they are incredibly intrinsically motivated to understand and engage in the real world, particularly around financial matters.

“Our young people are living through a cost-of-living crisis, so are looking for tools to navigate this,” he said. “Banqer High empowers them to make decisions for themselves around taking on debt, making investments or managing risk. And feeling empowered is one of the most effective motivations for continued learning.”

Brown said one of the most popular topics in the Banqer program is ‘Careers’, which enables students to progress via regular ‘check-ins’ each school day.

“The more they progress, the more earning potential they have. With this, students then have more options to grow net wealth across the platform with savings or investments. The other reason students love ‘Careers’ is it introduces them to real-world employment and workplace concepts via the check-in quizzes,” he said.

“These could be specific to their chosen Banqer career [accounting, veterinary or digital design, to name a few] or information all employees should know, including basic employment law or workplace conduct.”

‘Maximal impact in a short period of time’

Another organisation that has seen marked success in helping kids get money smart is Ecstra, whose Talk Money program reached 105,972 student bookings across 3,096 workshops in 527 schools last year alone.

Importantly, a significant proportion of schools in lower socio-economic areas (29%) and regional and rural locations (21%) have benefited from the program.

According to Ecstra Foundation’s Financial education in schools Impact Report 2022, the program has made “an immediate and positive impact on the financial literacy, knowledge and confidence of over 100,000 school students across Australia”, with 85% of Year 5 and 6 students saying they can now identify different ways to save (a 42% increase).

Additionally, 78% of Year 7 and 8 students believe they now understand the importance of saving to achieve their goals (45% increase), and 88% of Year 5 and 6 students believe they can learn to save and spend money well (29 per cent increase). Importantly, almost all (95%) of participating students said they learnt something in the workshops they can use.

When asked what she believes makes the program so successful compared to other financial literacy initiatives, Ecstra’s Financial Education Manager, Dr Tracey West said Talk Money “is designed to elicit maximal impact in a short period of time.”

“The age-appropriate workshops use rules of thumb and acronyms to engage with key concepts and build soft skills to support decision-making. For example, the Year 5&6 workshop focuses on how students think, feel and act with money, which supports early adolescent identity development,” West told The Educator.

“They are given tools to help them engage in conversations about money and interactive activities to reinforce their learning. Our workshops are not just about budgeting. We also make it easy for schools to book our facilitators to deliver the workshops.”

In 2024 Ecstra will focus on expanding its reach to more regional and rural locations, currently serviced through intensive roadshows, West said.

“Additionally, increasing our presence in schools of lower socio-economic advantage is important, which is currently 30% of our bookings.  We are also pleased to see repeat bookings increasing,” she said.

“A Talk Money workshop is great for starting conversations in the classroom, and a tangible benefit is that teachers are more confident to embed financial literacy in their lessons. Accordingly, in 2024 we will support teachers with a new Community of Practice and additional resources.”

Cultivating empowerment through financial independence

In May, the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation (CCAF) and The Warrior Woman Foundation (TWWF) announced a $508,200 partnership to support vulnerable young Australian women achieve financial independence and resilience.

The new grant from CCAF will allow Warrior Woman to deliver its financial literacy program to 120 young women who are at risk of not finishing high school, are leaving out-of-home care programs or who would benefit from guidance.

“The Warrior Woman Foundation addresses a critical gap in financial literacy for young women who are without a safety net, providing evidence-based courses and volunteer mentors to help them build their independence,” Anna Dear, CCAF Board Director said.

“Through this partnership and funding the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation is proud to be helping create brighter futures for these vulnerable young women, equipping them with the skills needed to address challenges and take control of their financial futures.”

Warrior Woman has a particular focus on supporting young women leaving the out-of-home care system on their 21st birthday, which is the date all government-based foster or group home support ceases in NSW. The loss of this safe home is compounded for young women with trauma, abuse, low educational attainment, poor mental health, high rates of teen pregnancy, alcohol, and drug addiction.

The Warrior Woman Foundation CEO, Jessica Brown, said the funding would allow the delivery of The Young Woman Warrior program to at-risk women in Sydney, and the Hunter and Illawarra regions.

“The program provides financial education and engages professional women as mentors to work one-on-one with mentees over six months, helping them take control of their lives through financial literacy, employability and self-efficacy,” Brown said.

“We’ve seen first-hand the positive impacts of the program and are grateful to be able to bring this assistance to even more young women with the help of the Coca-Cola Australia Foundation.”