“How to bring discussion about financial issues into the classroom”

January 11th, 2016 by Dan Allan

Last October, the CIVIX team welcomed representatives from the World Bank and the Russian Ministry of Finance.

The 16-member delegation was interested in learning more about financial literacy initiatives for students, as well as our Student Budget Consultation program.

We were also joined by students, and their teachers, from Sandalwood Heights Secondary School in Brampton, Ontario. The students took part in the 2015 Student Budget Consultation (and the 2015 Student Vote), and shared their experiences — including a trip to Ottawa to meet with representatives from the federal Department of Finance.

Ivor Beazley, the Task Team Leader for Budget Literacy Project in Russia, wrote about the presentation on the World Bank’s blog:

The 2008 financial crisis was a “wake up” call to many teachers in the United States and Canada. As families lost their homes and parents lost jobs, they began to appreciate the importance of kids leaving school with some knowledge of the world of finance – especially about how personal decisions are made about finance and how financial decisions taken by government directly affect their lives and future prospects. 

A study group from Moscow and five regions of Russia recently visited Canada and the US to learn more about initiatives in those two countries and to bring discussion about financial issues into the classroom – with the idea of turning today’s students into active and responsible citizens of the future, able to make well-informed personal financial decisions and to engage in discussions about public finances on behalf of themselves and their communities.

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Canada’s “Student Budget Consultation” program is an inspiring example of how to get students engaged and motivated. Each year, students get to debate real budget issues, in real time, and to hear from the real decision makers about the hard choices that have to be made. Students get to look at the facts, hear opinions from politicians, business leaders and other interest groups, debate budget priorities with fellow students, and then express their own views using a survey tool.

The results are then collected from schools across the country and consolidated to express the collective views of students on spending priorities. A small group of students then presents the Student Budget Consultation results on behalf of all the participating schools to the Minister of Finance in Ottawa.

Students told the group that being part of Student Budget Consultation was their first exposure to the topic of budgeting. Having political leaders speak directly to them in their classrooms (via video recordings), and having the opportunity to deal with real life issues, had quite an impact on their thinking, sparking their interest in finance and public affairs and, in some cases, changing the direction of their future studies and career choices.

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Despite a certain fear factor, there was no shortage of teachers willing to get involved and consequently the program has expanded rapidly, with support from governments and non-profit organizations dedicated to civic education and economic education such as CIVIX Canada.

The study group heard some common lessons of experience. First, how helpful it was to involve teachers in the design, testing and evaluation of course materials. Second, how important it is to tie these lessons into the regular student curriculum. Finally, the design of the course needs careful thought about how to engage students’ interest. Introducing the topic of the public budget was easier once students had thought about their personal or family finances.

Real life scenarios, involving real people and events were much more engaging than dreamt-up case studies. And, interactive learning through debate, role plays, and use of technology draws students in. All of this provided much food for thought as Russia pursues its own initiative to promote Budget Literacy in schools.

You can read the original post in its entirety here.

Previously, our team has visited Moscow, Russia and Warsaw, Poland to speak about the Student Budget Consultation.

Posted in English, Student Budget Consultation |

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