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Q and A: Finance education advocate Gary Rabbior on putting money management in curriculum

Financial literacy should be a mandatory component of school curriculum, says an advocate of talking to kids about money.

Gary Rabbior, president of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education, was recently in Edmonton to talk to education ministry folks about getting more financial literacy in the curriculum. There should be opportunities for kids to learn about managing money and career planning in all subjects, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming to be effective, he said.

Gary Rabbior, who has been president of the non-profit Canadian Foundation for Economic Education for more than 30 years, recently met with Alberta’s curriculum director to discuss the future of finance lessons in the province’s classrooms.

Alberta is currently in the throes of a rewrite of the K-12 curriculum, the first time all grades have been developed simultaneously in English and French. In surveys, parents, educators and the public have flagged financial literacy as one area where they’d like to see more emphasis.

Some school boards have also advocated for the ministry to incorporate more consumer knowledge for students.

Last year in Alberta, there were 13,481 consumer and business insolvencies, an increase of 1.1 per cent from 2016, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Bankruptcy Canada.

Here’s what Rabbior said about how schools can help turn that around. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q. Generally, where do schools fall short in teaching about financial literacy?

A. One of the things that’s somewhat unusual about Alberta that we applaud is that they are including financial literacy under their health and well-being curriculum. Once you start to look at the ways in which it shows up when people have overextended themselves, it’s quite extraordinary.

One of the challenges tends to be parents, because they’re today so fixated on their kids going to university, and if a subject area does not count as a university credit, they will often resist their kids taking it.

A third priority is the need for effective professional development for teachers so they have the confidence and competence to provide instruction in this area.

Q. What are the consequences of financial illiteracy?

A. I tell people to teach that every decision you make entails a trade off. The second is the concept of self-efficacy in a child. If there’s something a child really wants, and you work with them to develop a plan to get it, and they get that feel-good from setting that goal and accomplishing it, you won’t have to tell them to budget.

The third thing we think is vitally important is to help young people develop the ability to set their own limits. There are so many pressures, so many people and organizations trying to influence your behaviours and your decisions, that if you relinquish your decisions to others, you will find yourself overextended on credit cards. You’ll find yourself with mortgages beyond what you’re comfortably able to pay.

Q. Some teachers say the curriculum is already packed and hard to finish in one year. How do you weave financial lessons around the competing interests?

We have a program called Talk with Our Kids About Money on April 18. We ask teachers of science, math, phys ed, you name it, to teach your lesson in your curriculum area on a topic related to money. You can integrate this into every subject area in a fairly easy way, to be able to teach some of the core concepts you’d like kids to understand. You don’t necessarily have to throw something out to bring this in.

From: Edmonton Journal
Janet French, Reporter
Published on: March 25, 2018

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