Financial literacy worth teaching in school

School may be out for the summer but education is still a major topic of discussion here in July.

Last week Ontario’s education minister Stephen Lecce announced updates to the curriculum, noting Grade 10 students would now learn more about personal finance management. That includes developing a budget for their first year after graduation and to research various methods of borrowing money to cover the cost of a post-secondary education. In short, they plan to teach something a little more practical than how to calculate the area around a hexagon. Learning how to budget for education would be quite handy, as a 2018 Statistics Canada report noted Canadian university students graduate, on average, owing more than $26,000 in student loans. And that doesn’t even begin to get into personal budget, a skill that so often has been ignored in classrooms while instead focusing on more abstract notions such as solving for X, BEDMAS or the Pythagorean theorem. 

Parents have long been calling for courses that focus on financial management so this announcement should be a welcome one. It comes in a time when premier Doug Ford’s Conservative government has been heavily criticized to other changes they’ve made to education, primarily in regards to class sizes and reverting to a much older, viewed by many as outdated, sex education program.  

The updated mandatory Careers course, which will also focus on the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), is set to begin being taught in classrooms across Ontario this coming September. Lecce says focusing on STEM better aligns itself with the current job market.

While those areas tend to lead to higher paying jobs, numbers and math aren’t everyone’s strong suit either. There will always be a need for those courses, but they are better off as elective courses for those who want to pursue a career in that field. Last week’s announcement was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t mention anything on how to do taxes or plan for retirement-skills that would be beneficial to just about every student at some point in their lifetime. Smartphones have been a blessing for those who struggle with numbers, as a simple voice command can instantly multiple and divide. There’s yet to be an app developed yet that can file one’s taxes. Until that day comes, it’s worthwhile to offer a course that teaches those basic life skills.

-Adam Prudhomme

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