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Are Quebec Students Financially Literate?
As kids, many of us
earned our money by helping our parents when they needed it, but is doing
chores around the house enough to teach kids the value of a dollar, how to save
and how to budget for the future? Students may soon get some help on how to do
these things, thanks to a new curriculum the Quebec government plans to
introduce in high schools across the province.
In October 2016, Quebec’s Education Minister Sébastien Proulx announced the government’s plan to launch a new mandatory economics course, which was slated to begin in the 2017-2018 school year for students in their last year of high school. According to the CBC, Proulx said, “The course will focus on financial literacy, addressing issues such as credit scores, loans, making a budget and signing a cell phone contract.”
The concept of this new course, which would partially replace the general economics course which was eliminated in 2009, was in heavy controversy all of last year, particularly because it was proposed to cut half of the teaching time from the Contemporary World course to make room for this new financial literacy themed course. Critics of the proposal were concerned, since teacher unions and school boards were not consulted in depth with regards to the specific curriculum. At the moment, the course is mandated for all secondary V students in the province.
Hovig Vartivarian teaches grades 7 through 11 at Lake of Two Mountains High School in Deux-Montagnes. He believes students aren’t prepared enough to understand financial terms once they leave high school. “You ask them, what are your income taxes…they’ll be like ‘uh, what are you talking about’?’” he says. “If you ask them anything related to savings, RRSPs, maybe one per cent will know what you are talking about. The rest will look at you as if you are talking to a ghost.”
Andrew Bardell has taught Math at Rosemere High School for the last 14 years. He says he takes it upon himself to teach his younger students a little about the basics of having a bank account.
“I’ll take a class or two to talk to them about what a debit card and what a credit card is, and what that implies…stuff like mortgages. I mean a lot of them really have no idea,” he says.
For Phil Ghayad, the Commerce Program Coordinator at Dawson College, the lack of financial knowledge among students could be because it’s hard to sell this kind of material to kids at a young age. “I don’t think it’s the most interesting thing to talk about,” he says. “Savings, debt, interest rates. I think it’s more fun to talk about movies, restaurants, music.”
What topics could be discussed in this new course? Worku Aberra, an Economics professor at Dawson, believes it’s important that students learn bank terms, like what a debit or credit card means. “In my opinion, it should include a list of financial terms so that students will be able to understand when they get a statement from the banks,” Aberra says. “They should also include terms that are used in the financial media, when people talk about let’s say, so many percentage points going down, that kind of thing.”
Even with the new financial literacy program proposed, it can be argued that it is also a parent’s job to teach their children how to manage their money. For Giovanni Sardo’s four kids, who range from six to 12 years old, they learned that money isn’t just given to them, and it’s easy for it to disappear very quickly. “My kids do chores and earn money which must be saved,” he says. “When their piggy banks are full, half goes into a savings account, a quarter goes to personal spending while the last quarter goes towards charitable donations,” he explains. “I do not buy gifts outside of Christmas and birthdays so that money that they earn must last them if they want to buy things. It makes them think twice about getting a toy right away, and they truly reflect on what they want to buy.”
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