With renewed public interest in the motives behind school banking schemes and the role they play in teaching financial literacy, what are the alternatives?
UniSuper member and Associate Professor in mathematics education at Western Sydney University, Dr. Catherine Attard, believes combining maths and financial literacy concepts can be a better way to teach children good financial habits and boost numeracy, rather than bank-driven programs.
Why are school banking schemes again under the spotlight?
The royal commission caused educators and other regulators to take a close look at the motives and ethics behind these initiatives and assess whether they actually have a place in school classrooms.
One of the biggest issues is that many students remain faithful to that particular bank throughout their lives. It’s the banks’ way of securing long-term customers who will eventually have credit cards, mortgages and personal loans. While it’s important to develop savings habits early, there are questions around the overall educational value of these schemes and the disruptions they cause to classroom routines.
For those who may not know, how do they work?
The most prominent is the Commonwealth Bank’s Dollarmites scheme. It involves students opening an account and provides reward incentives when students make a certain number of deposits.
Your research has looked into alternatives in teaching financial literacy. What drew you to this area of study?
As a researcher in mathematics education, I understand how many mathematical concepts are linked to financial literacy concepts. Much of my research has focused on finding ways to address the issue of declining student engagement that ultimately leads to many students dropping out of mathematics once they get to senior secondary school.
I strongly believe that if we make mathematics relevant for students, they’re more likely to engage with it, and this is where financial literacy enters the picture. All students are familiar with money. When you merge financial concepts with mathematical concepts in interesting and relevant ways through a hands-on approach, students become more engaged.
Are there some alternatives to school banking programs?
Yes. I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not just teachers who are responsible for the development of sound financial literacy skills.
Parents can significantly influence their children’s financial behaviours, so it’s important they model good practice. If they feel they don’t have the appropriate skills, there are a broad range of resources available to assist. ASIC’s MoneySmart website is a great place to start. They have tailored resources for schools that link directly to the curriculum. They also have a broad range of high-quality resources suitable for people of all ages, in all sorts of circumstances.
An online financial literacy program I particularly like is Banqer, which is available free to primary school teachers and as a subscription to secondary students. Teachers can also incorporate financial literacy into mathematics lessons and other situations where money is involved such as school excursions, fund-raising and lunch orders.
What role, if any, do you think super funds could play in this space?
I believe all financial institutions—including super funds—have some responsibility to promote financial literacy skills in children. Providing support to clients that will enable them to model financial capabilities to the younger generation is important, as is supporting the development of resources that are accessible to children.
Looking back, is there anything you wish you’d known about money when you were younger?
No, I was fortunate to have been brought up with parents who were very wise with their money. I was also encouraged to save money and budget. This enabled me to set and achieve goals while still being able to spend a little.
What would be your top three tips for parents looking to teach their kids more about money matters?
- Talk to your children about money, including topics such as household expenses.
- Model good financial behaviours including saving and spending (shopping for best buys).
- Help children to budget and save for a goal so they develop positive saving and spending habits.
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