Posted by Allison on 1 April 2009, 16:22
Can you remember being taught anything much about money when you were at school?
The chances are you're sitting there shaking your head right now. In truth, children were never taught anything about money – they were left to their own devices, or to what their parents taught them. The sad thing is that things haven't changed much in recent (and even not so recent) years. Arguably one of the most important subjects of all is totally ignored.
But it seems as if things are changing. Financial lessons are going to be included in secondary school lessons. This might sound like welcome news and indeed it is, but it is also true to say that it isn't compulsory. And until it becomes so, not every child will realise just how important money and currency matters really are until it is too late.
There is an article on the 'This is Money' website that reveals more about this new turn of events. You can read it by going to http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/consumer/article.html?in_article_id=422396&in_page_id=5.
The truth is, teenagers who leave school and move on to university are in a precarious position when it comes to money. University life can be very expensive, and even those who take up part time jobs find that the bills and overdrafts will follow them around for a long time to come.
It's an alarming thought, but some teenagers in this position don't even realise how credit cards work. They apply for one, end up with a limit reaching into three or four figures, and think that it's their money to spend. But of course it's not as simple as that.
This is why the financial lessons would be welcomed by many teenagers themselves, as well as their parents. After all, when you leave school, what are the things you need to know about? Not history dates or the components of a human cell. You need to know all about practical money matters, such as how credit cards work, why you should avoid debt, and why you don't get what you actually earn when you get a job.
Time will tell whether or not the optional financial lessons will be rolled out nationally in a compulsory scheme. A lot may depend on how popular the first attempts at including them are. But since there is no syllabus for them (schools are the ones that decide what should be taught) the knowledge learned will vary greatly between classes.
It would seem then that we will have to wait a few years to see whether these classes will make any difference to the national landscape of money matters. Some would argue that the government didn't go far enough: they should have been compulsory from the beginning. But at least this is a step in the right direction.
The idea is clearly to help children understand the meaning of money and how it affects their lives from an early age. Instead of having little or no concept of how money can be earned and spent, teenagers will be able to leave school with at least a basic grounding in currency and what it means.
But this will only happen if they are lucky enough to go to a school that will teach them about it, of course.