Children need more money savvy

May 13, 2018 - 09:00

Experts, educators and parents now think it’s time to make personal finance a subject of study at schools.

Illustration by Trịnh Lập
Viet Nam News

By Minh Thu

When her seven-year-old daughter wanted to buy a book she couldn’t afford, Trần Ngân from the southern province of Đồng Nai decided to provide a lesson in finance and money.

Her daughter, Mai Phương, had been given a budget of VNĐ500,000 (US$22) to buy a book. But she decided she wanted to buy one that cost VNĐ700,000. So she asked her mother for a loan. Her mother agreed that she could repay the extra money by helping her mother do housework for eight Sundays. Instead of playing games and watching television as she does on a typical Sunday, the deal meant that Phương had to stay at home, clean house, mop the floor, cook and wash the dishes.

Ngân said that Phương learned about how to manage money, carefully consider spending and be aware of the high costs of living beyond her income.

Ngân’s experience illustrates one way to respond to what many parents and experts see as the increasing urgency of giving children a financial education. Recently, a national conference on the field was organised in Hà Nội to raise people’s awareness of the importance of financial literacy and develop a plan for bringing financial education to primary and secondary schools.

“Financial literacy is a core life skill for participating in modern society,” said Prof Nguyễn Minh Thuyết, chief editor of the new curriculum for comprehensive education reform.

“Children are growing up in an increasingly complex world where they will eventually need to take charge of their own financial future.”

Financial literacy is defined as "the ability to use knowledge and skills to manage financial resources effectively for a lifetime of financial well-being".

Many parents try to keep their children far away from money because they are afraid that they will become spoilt. When they know about value of money, they may develop evil habits like telling lies, buying too many toys and stealing money from parents.

Experts, educators and parents now think it’s time to make personal finance a subject of study at schools.

“Now it’s the fourth industrial revolution era. We talk a lot about start-ups and investment and we want to equip our children with knowledge of the economy as soon as possible,” said Ngân, the mother of two.

“My children, one studying at primary school and one at high school, learn a lot of academic subjects when they go to classes. But is this really practical and necessary for them?”

“I want them to earn the practical knowledge, instead of too much theory. They don’t need to know much about integrals and extracting the square root of a number. They should know how to manage money, buy things they want or buy things they need, or just go shopping without a calculator.”   

Prof Thuyết recommended that financial education start as early as possible and be taught in schools.

“Including financial education as part of the school curriculum is a fair and efficient policy tool,” he said. “Financial education is a long-term process. Building it into curricula from an early age allows children to acquire the knowledge and skills to build responsible financial behaviour throughout each stage of their education.”

“Financial education is increasingly important, and not just for investors. It is becoming essential for the average family trying to decide how to balance its budget, buy a home, fund the children’s education and ensure an income when the parents retire.”

Đào Đức Doãn, head of the Civics Faculty from the National University of Education, said he was working on a project to bring financial education to schools. Accordingly, children from the age of seven will learn the history and value of money and how to manage it responsibly.

“Preschool-aged children are capable of learning simple spending plans. Early training in categorising money establishes patterns for future money management behaviour,” he said. 

“This lesson introduces children to the concept of dividing their money into categories, namely ‘save’, ‘spend’, and ‘share’. We present activities that will help children understand that money is limited in quantity and must be divided for different purposes.”

Doãn pointed out that the lesson also helps children learn to make decisions. For example, in front of a shop with various kinds of toys, they have to choose which one is fit for their pockets.

“Children also learn to earn money and understand that money does not come free. Early training in earning small amounts of money provides a foundation and understanding that work and money are connected.”

However, parents should help young children distinguish between shared responsibilities as members of a family and responsibilities that earn them money, he said. 

“Beside certain tasks they are expected to do at home, children can do additional tasks to earn money for their spending plans,” he said.

Trần Thị Hương, vice chairwoman of the Việt Nam Women’s Union, suggested that beside building up teaching programmes for financial literacy, the Ministry of Education and Training should make some changes in the content of text books.

She pointed out that there is gender inequality in the schoolbooks. She analysed 76 textbooks of six subjects from the first to the 12th grade. Women are often described as housewives and employees, meanwhile men appear as bosses, businessmen, scientists, doctors and teachers as well as other important occupations.

“There is a stereotype that men hold strong positions and decision-making power in family’s economy,” she said.

 “That leads to the opinion that women and female students don’t need to be equipped with financial literacy.”

Hương recommended that the students can approach gender equality and financial literacy naturally and effectively through various subjects at schools, not only civics or maths. The new programme aims to bring more practical knowledge for them, not increase the burden of studying and testing. VNS