Journalist and Writer
Hilary Wilce specialising in all aspects of education
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The Quandary - 15 Nov 2007

My sons are financially ignorant and know nothing about mortgages and interest rates. Shouldnít they be taught them at school?

Hillary's Advice

A good part of me wants to say: well, whatís stopping you teaching them at home? If, as you say, you sit around your family supper table discussing the sub-prime crisis, why not use this opportunity to give your children some clear explanations of financial realities? It sometimes seems as if parents have become like children themselves, always expecting someone else to pick up the pieces.

But itís more serious than that. We have a massive personal debt crisis and a financially illiterate population and not too many families who talk about bundled loans over the evening spaghetti, so schools are having to step in and teach personal finance.

In fact for the past five years teachers have been expected to address issues of spending and saving, as well as the rights and responsibilities of consumers, through maths, social education and citizenship lessons, and the charity, the Personal Finance Education Group, has been offering lesson plans and resources to help them do it. Now it has launched What Money Means, a national campaign to improve finance education in primary schools.

And although some teachers find the thought of teaching personal finance daunting, many children appear to love the subject. They immediately see the relevance to their own lives and find that even concepts of compound interest and profit margins become easy to grasp when wrapped up in practical saving projects, or stock market games. Personal finance lessons can be great fun -- although it remains to be seen whether they will have any effect on the nationís financial habits.