International Experiences in Strengthening Budget Literacy: Bringing the Student Budget Consultation to Moscow

April 14th, 2015 by CIVIX

“Hey Paul,” was how the email from my colleague Dan started. “We’re giving a presentation on the Student Budget Consultation to the Russian Ministry of Finance on April 2 via Skype. In the rare chance we needed to get you to Moscow to give the presentation in person, could that be possible?”

Since the beginning of March, I have been working remotely for CIVIX from Geneva, Switzerland. Since CIVIX programs are run exclusively in Canada (for now, at least), I didn’t expect to by flying around Europe to talk about our work. I was completely wrong.

Within a few days of Dan’s initial email, my flights and hotel were booked, and I started working on a presentation and made sure that I knew every little detail about the Student Budget Consultation.

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My presentation was part of a workshop organized by the World Bank and the Russian Ministry of Finance, who are currently working together on a pilot project to start teaching budget literacy to high school students in several regions across Russia. The project is still in the early stages, and this workshop was designed to establish goals, priorities and to learn from budget literacy initiatives in other countries. There were about 50 participants in total, which included the Russian Deputy Minister of Finance, World Bank staff, bureaucrats from the ministries of Finance and Education, international experts, representatives from the pilot regions and other education stakeholders.

My presentation was part of a panel on “International Experiences in Strengthening Budget Literacy.” The other presenters were from South Africa and Brazil, as well as from the US and the Netherlands via Skype. In my 30 minute presentation, I talked about the goals of the Student Budget Consultation, shared some of the program videos, looked at parts of the survey and the results of past years, and answered questions from the audience. My presentation was well received, and I think it combined with the other international presentations to give the project leaders a good idea of what is possible and what works in budget literacy initiatives.

One of the common themes of the workshop was the need to create citizen demand for budget information. Even if governments are completely transparent about their budgeting processes, it is meaningless if citizens do not care or cannot understand the information. This is why it is so important for financial literacy programs to be in schools, because they help create informed and engaged citizens who will demand transparency and hold governments to account.

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The international component of the workshop also opened my eyes to the interesting work being done in the areas of civic education and budget literacy in other countries. As our work is focused in Canada, it was useful to hear from experiences from countries as diverse as Brazil and South Africa. It was also very interesting to hear about the vast differences between Russian regions, as well as a strong rural-urban divide in the quality of education. Being massive countries with pronounced geographical differences is something that Russia and Canada certainly have in common, and we share the challenge of trying to establish budget literacy curriculum that works for everyone.  

The two day workshop ended on a Friday afternoon, and then I spent the weekend doing some sightseeing in Moscow. It was great to see some of the historical sites while spending time just wandering around the city.

Now I am back in Geneva, but the CIVIX Student Budget Consultation European Spring Tour will continue next month in Warsaw, Poland. Stay tuned!

Paul Anderson
CIVIX European Bureau Chief

Posted in English, Student Budget Consultation |

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