By Kate Allen, Toronto Star, February 28, 2011
The province is set to unveil a new, multi-million dollar program on Monday aimed at teaching kids how to manage money.
Aimed at students in grades 4 through 12, the Ministry of Education’s financial literacy initiative will be integrated into the curriculum this coming September.
The Ontario Securities Commission is providing almost $2 million in funding for new resources, including training for teachers and video and electronic activities for classrooms. The ministry will also be working with the Investor Education Fund, a non-profit educational arm of the OSC, to develop the program.
While the investor part of the program is worthwhile, the fact that the province, supported with cash from the Securities Commission, is getting into the money-management curriculum for students from grades 4 through 12 is a good thing.
Unfortunately, it comes when the whole world is fixated on the issues of money, to the exclusion of most other matters, and that means that impressionable students will grow up with a sense that money is even more important than it deserves to be.
I recall the scientist/activist David Suzuki once making the statement on national television that the economy must serve the people and not the other way round, as it is currently.
Similarly, if this curriculum puts the student in charge of his/her financial options and obligations, including how to negotiate with his employer, his parents, and eventually his partners (both domestic and professional) then it will have accomplished much.
As one U.S. trained psychiatrist commented recently privately, the fact that there is no teaching of financial management shows up in our practices, often and far too late.
And now, if the province would also consider the equally radical move of entering the curriculum business with respect to teaching all students the skills of relationship-building, two glaring and gaping wholes in our education system would have been filled...long overdue, but better late than never.
Perhaps it is also an indication that political leaders who have refused to provide adequate regulation for the financial services sector and by their hands-off approach contributed to the recent financial meltdown, and the serious global implications, have found their legs in opening the gates to the kind of information that will, in future, make it impossible for a financially literate public to tolerate such complicity with the greed that drives the market.
In addition to making household budgets more easily and competently regulated, by those whose responsbility it is to pay the bills and balance the accounts, perhaps the economies of companies and states/provinces will also benefit from having this kind of literacy and skill spread across the social demographics.
Politically, the McGuinty government needed a useful, credible and far-sighted cornerstone for their upcoming attempt to gain another majority in October. With both the full-day kindergarten and the financial literacy curriculum, it has two pieces of the puzzle of a platform to which Ontario voters can re-think their offer of confidence to their current government. These two planks certainly do not assure McGuinty of re-election; however, they will not impede his path to another majority.
Now, if he can get the health care system's long-term funding renegotiated with Ottawa, with some assurances that it is sustainable for at least the next decade, he might have brought himself and his government knocking on the door of electoral success...but there is so little time.