21 Aug 2023

Financial literacy in schools draws interest from political parties

6:10 am on 21 August 2023
Generic money.

Whether it is a Labour or National government after the October elections, both major parties have hinted at making financial literacy mandatory in schools. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Young people look set to soon learn how to manage money as part of their schooling, after a show of bipartisan support for the idea.

Labour announced its financial literacy policy at the weekend, pitching schools would teach students financial basics, if it is elected in October.

The plan looks set to stay regardless of the election outcome though, after National confirmed it supported the idea.

"It will happen. It's something that we are committed to delivering," the party's deputy leader Nicola Willis said.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said under the policy, every student leaving high school would have a core knowledge of saving, budgeting, banking and borrowing.

"Financial skills have such a significant impact [on] the lives that people lead beyond the school system. We want to make sure that that's not left to chance."

It would be implemented through existing subjects - like maths and social sciences - at no extra cost and managed by the newly-established curriculum centre at the Ministry of Education.

Labour education spokesperson Jan Tinetti said the programme would make sure teachers had enough resources and schools would have flexibility in how they delivered it.

"This won't be an extra demand on teachers, rather it will make sure they have what they need, including access to existing programmes and partnerships and support through the newly established curriculum centre at the Ministry of Education."

ACT leader David Seymour was supportive of the policy, saying there was "a lot of merit" in teaching kids how to manage money, but remained sceptical about Labour's true motives and what would be taught.

"Will Labour be committed to pulling off a regime like that or have they come to make financial literacy mandatory because it sounds good in focus groups 55 days before an election?

"The question will be does the government have a commitment to listening to experts across the community and producing a world-class curriculum or are we going to get a large dollop of localised curriculum about upholding the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi competing with the objective of preparing kids to navigate the world of financial literacy."

Green Party education spokesperson Teanau Tuiono said he liked the sound of compulsory financial literacy in schools and hoped it would equal more Greens voters.

"I think financial literacy is a good thing and then if our young people will learn why it's important to have a wealth tax, and making sure that the rich actually pay their fair share so that we can have things like free dental, income guarantee and all those things that we need to live good lives."

Young voters RNZ spoke to in central Wellington had only good things to say about the policy, saying they felt ill-prepared to manage money, often relying on advice from parents, when they left high school.