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  • Consumer and financial literacy education policy

    Teaching and learning about taxation and superannuation are part of consumer and financial literacy education. In Australia, there is a substantive policy backdrop for moves to strengthen consumer and financial literacy education at school and bring about sustainable improvements in the types of learning outcomes associated with active and informed citizenship. The OECD INFE Guidelines on Financial Education in Schools argue that the younger generation face increasingly complex financial problems and decisions, and advocate teaching and learning programs that 'will enable students to make savvy and effective financial decisions in their daily life and when they become adults' (OECD, 2012, page 4).

    The guidelines recommend that member countries (OECD, 2012, pages 4-5):

    • integrate financial education into the school curriculum
    • include financial education from the beginning of formal schooling
    • allow for flexible school-based curriculum implementation
    • encourage standalone and cross-curricular approaches
    • provide appropriate financial and in-kind resources
    • ensure suitable involvement of important key stakeholders
    • support the education system in the provision of teacher education.

    The guidelines also signal the importance of monitoring and evaluating the impact of teaching and learning programs on student learning outcomes and make explicit reference to the OECD PISA Financial Literacy Assessment (OECD, 2012).

    Viewed as a 'to do list,' Australia’s progress is significant. Over the past decade, the Australian Government has invested significantly in various initiatives intended to help children understand finance. This work has been led by ASIC and has involved collaboration with key government bodies, the education sector, industry, and community stakeholders. Australia has a National Consumer and Financial Literacy FrameworkExternal Link (MCEECDYA, 2005) and consecutive National Financial Literacy StrategiesExternal Link (ASIC, 2011, 2014). The National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework foreshadowed the development of the Australian Curriculum and suggests progression of student learning from Foundation to Year 10. The National Financial Literacy Strategies acknowledge educating the next generation through the formal education system as a strategic priority.

    Consumer and financial literacy has an elevated status across the Australian Curriculum and, while not identified as a Cross-Curriculum Priority, there are clear opportunities for interdisciplinary approaches that place students at the centre of exploring topical 'real world' financial problems and decisions. Australia’s financial regulators have invested in the development of resources for teachers and students. ASIC has developed the MoneySmart TeachingExternal Link package, which includes units of work and digital resources mapped to the National Consumer and Financial Literacy Framework and the Australian Curriculum, along with teacher professional development. The secondary school units of work and digital resources take a topical focus on ‘financial firsts’ including purchasing a mobile phone, securing your first job, purchasing your first car, moving out of home, and planning a small business.

    The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) also has a school education program which aims to teach students the basics of tax and super, the importance of paying tax, and the benefits of the taxation system to the community. Tax, Super + YouExternal Link is a free online educational resource mapped to the Australian Curriculum. It consists of four modules that explore the Australian taxation system, personal and business tax topics, and the superannuation system. Free presentations are also offered to secondary school teachers and students at their school or via webinar. ASIC and the ATO recently partnered with the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to create Curriculum Connections resources with links to MoneySmart Teaching and Tax, Super + You. These resources are promoted as allowing 'educators to draw connections across the dimensions of the Australian Curriculum' and providing 'multiple pathways to search, access and organise content' in relation to conceptual themes, of which consumer and financial literacy is one example (ACARA, 2018a).

    While it is positive that the Australian government and finance industry are invested in quality consumer and financial literacy education at school, various educational researchers have highlighted risks associated with casting teachers and students as recipients who simply 'implement' policy, curriculum, and resources (see Ball, Maguire, and Braun, 2012; Hardy, 2015). Increasingly, academics are arguing that financial literacy education tends to be values-laden, with middle class curriculum content that is disconnected from many students’ everyday financial realities, and potentially marginalising for those from culturally diverse and low socioeconomic backgrounds (Appleyard and Rowlingson, 2013; Blue, Grootenboer, and Brimble, 2014; Blue and Pinto, 2017). As part of this critique, Lucey, Agnello and Laney (2015) distinguish between 'thin' and 'thick' views of financial literacy and financial literacy education. A thin or conventional view portrays money as a tool for achieving individual wealth accumulation. Here, financial literacy is portrayed as 'an individual responsibility with individual consequences, in which those who lack money receive social judgment for their poor choices' (page 9). This tends to 'reinforce patterns of inequity and classism' (page 11).

    By contrast, a thick or compassionate view recognises that one’s financial choices and decisions occur within a social system and affect other participants in that system (Lucey et al., 2015). Shifting government, industry, and public perceptions towards the latter has the potential to prompt a broader social vision that is predisposed to more ethical, equitable, and just economic and financial interactions and outcomes. Transforming thinking in this way has the potential to change the way schools and teachers perceive and conceptualise what holistic consumer, economic, and financial literacy education might involve beyond a focus on somewhat dry finance topics.

      Last modified: 04 Sep 2018QC 56750