Does Ontario’s New Financial Literacy Curriculum Go Far Enough?

Financial literacy

The Ontario government has announced that starting in September 2019 it will be mandatory for grade 10 student to learn about financial literacy. This is a step forward to helping young people learn more about money management, but it may be too little too late. Here is what we know about the curriculum and how it will presented to student in the fall.

Embedded in careers curriculum

Financial literacy will be taught to students as part of the career studies curriculum. These financial literacy lesson will include learning about financial management, such as how to plan to fund the first year after high school. It will also teach young people about how to budget, how to compare different forms of debt and how to pay bills on time. There were also instruction on how to use credit responsibly and options to pay for postsecondary education.

Beyond money

The careers curriculum will have a focus on careers in high-growth industries such as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM.) This they say will help young people make better decision about the careers they choose into the future. Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education says, “With an emphasis on STEM, financial literacy, and transferable skills, we are better aligning our curriculum with the labor market, to ensure our young people can optimize their skills and get access to good-paying jobs.”

Here is what the provincial government is proposing:

The updated Career Studies course, which is a mandatory requirement for achieving an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, now includes learning on financial literacy and an enhanced focus on career pathways, such as apprenticeships in the skilled trades. It also takes a deeper look at…

  • Financial management and budgeting (including paying bills on time, the value of using credit responsibly, and options to pay for postsecondary education);
  • Careers in high-growth industries such as the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) disciplines;
  • Social media usage and its implications for students; and,
  • Cross-curricula transferable skills such as creativity, collaboration, and technological fluency.

Personal Finance for kids

Teaching young people about personal finance has to start in primary school. Kids as young at four and five are capable of learning basic money concepts of, how to make better money decision, why adults are paid salaries and delayed gratification. Since 2002 in British Columbia students, starting in grade 1, have received personal finance lessons. In the early years students identify coins and play games to show how to buy everyday household items. In grade five students are learning about financially planning, how to make a savings goal and reach it. By grade seven they are learning about unit prices and how to compare and find most value in all purchases they make. By high school they have an excellent foundation about personal finance and how to manage their won money.

Grade 10 is too late

Starting to teach young people how to save and spend wisely, at any age, is always a good thing. But it has to start earlier. By grade 10 many young people have already had their first part time job and started making money. Many of them may have already developed some bad money habits that teachers will have to work to reverse. If you start talking to kids as young as kindergarten about money then it will be easier to build on those skills when they get older.

Parents play a role too

The money conversation can start as early as any family wants too, talking about bills and how much life cost should not be a secret. Get your kid involved with grocery shopping and comparing prices. Make them choose between situations to show you can’t afford to give them everything (even if you can.) This can be done as early as your child starts to talk. If you’re feeling stuck there are many resources available on the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s website and on ABC life literacy.

This new curriculum, which was first introduced 2017 as a pilot across several schools in Ontario, is a step in the right direction. But it does not go far enough to really get young people ready to manage money when they reach adulthood.

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