Setting up for security: talking about financial capability in New Zealand classrooms

Issue: Volume 94, Number 13

Posted: 10 August 2015
Reference #: 1H9crj

The Ministry of Education and the Commission for Financial Capability are encouraging teachers to broach the subject of financial capability in the classroom. In this article, the first in a pair of articles building up to Money Week 2015, the Ministry and the Commission outline some key points.

Is it ever too early to learn about budgeting and investments, Kiwi Saver and credit cards?

In collaboration with the Ministry of Education and other government agencies, the Commission for Financial Capability (CFFC) is helping New Zealand schools approach these topics and more, as part of the National Strategy for Financial Capability, announced on 2 July.

The national strategy has a vision: to strengthen our young people’s knowledge so they can make better-informed financial decisions as they go through their lives. The strategy aims to do this through five avenues:

  • Talk: a cultural shift where it’s easy to talk about money.
  • Learn: effective financial learning throughout life.
  • Plan: everyone has a current financial plan and is prepared for the unexpected.
  • Debt-smart: we can learn to manage debt and use it to our advantage.
  • Save/invest: Everyone learning to save and invest their assets in the short, medium and long-term.

A cultural shift in how we talk about money

Financial capability is defined as the ability to make informed decisions about money. It’s about having knowledge, skills and confidence to manage one’s finances.

But as a culture, we are not used to talking about our finances. Individual differences and complex financial products can make it a stressful and intimidating thing to do.

CFFC led the creation of a national strategy to improve New Zealanders’ financial capability with the vision of ‘everyone getting ahead financially’, says CFFC education manager Angela Clemens.

It’s also important we have confidence to talk with providers, ask questions, and understand the choices available, she says.

“It’s about all of us becoming more comfortable to talk with family and friends about money, and to gain the confidence to have the hard conversations and ask questions when we don’t understand.

“The aim is building capability so that everyone understands the choices before them, and gets to that point for themselves.

“It’s important to recognise that success is about your best result, and nobody else’s. And critically, success at an individual level builds wellbeing at a national level – socially and economically.”

Financial capability in the New Zealand curriculum

The New Zealand Curriculum encourages schools to develop links between learning areas to teach financial capability, positioning students to make sound financial decisions throughout their lives.

Teachers can visit TKI to find the Financial Capability portal(external link), which includes both Ministry and external sector-developed resources

The Financial Capability Learning Progressions(external link) can also be found within this portal. These progressions set out suggested curriculum-based outcomes across a range of learning areas. They present key financial capabilities and skills that students should develop across their primary and secondary schooling. 

How financially capable are New Zealand students?

In 2012, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study assessed New Zealand students’ proficiencies in financial literacy.

The study found that New Zealand students had nearly double the proportion of students with advanced skills in financial literacy (19 per cent) than the OECD average (10 per cent).

In addition, most New Zealand students (around 90 per cent) had a bank account, which was higher than most participating countries. The difference in achievement in financial literacy between students who held a bank account compared to those who did not was the largest among all participating countries.

But there is room for improvement. The PISA study found students’ financial literacy was closely linked to their socio-economic background. In fact, in New Zealand, this relationship was the strongest among participating countries.

Māori and Pasifika students, on average, achieved lower financial literacy scores than the average for New Zealand. And students with an immigrant background, and those for whom English was not spoken at home also achieved lower financial literacy scores, on average.

The study also showed that in New Zealand, performance in financial literacy was strongly related to a student’s scores in maths and reading.

A summary of the PISA key findings into financial literacy(external link)

Talking about money in the classroom

A group of Auckland schools have formed a financial capability learning community. The ‘Upper Harbour Sorted Schools’ (UHSS) is a cluster of nine schools taking part in the CFFC pilot, which runs over two years until December 2015.

The primary objective of the Sorted Schools initiative is to improve engagement with financial capability across an entire school: teachers, students, and the surrounding community.

Di Cavallo is deputy principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School, while also leading the advisory group to the Upper Harbour Sorted Schools learning community.

Di says that financial capability learning should begin with our youngest students, starting with the fundamental question ‘where does money come from?’ “They say things like ‘the money tree’, the ‘machine’, the computer, the wishing well. They see mum go to the ATM with a plastic card, and then walk away with money in hand. At that level, you’re starting to teach the idea that you earn money, and that people usually go to work and get paid.”

At senior level, learning about such basic concepts as recognising cash denominations has turned into learning about good and bad debt; credit; long-term debt; interest rates; compound interest and warranties. Students can grasp these complex concepts with ease, says Di, if financial literacy has been a thread throughout their education: and they are then armed with the knowledge to navigate their independent lives with confidence, making the right choices.

The whole point of the UHSS, she says, is to get teachers talking and throwing ideas around. Because financial literacy is a facet of life that affects all of us, all of our lives, there’s a lot more to it than money and numbers.

For example, there are cultural concerns to be mindful of, as well as socio-economic. Do we want to run the risk of imposing money anxieties on students from poorer backgrounds?

“That’s a really interesting question, and something we look at within the Upper Harbour Learning Community. There’s been some fascinating research that has come out of the US recently, a report on financial wellbeing. The research makes clear how huge the impact of your own financial well-being as well as that of your family is to your general wellbeing,” says Di.

“There are also cultural aspects to money and finance. In certain communities, for example, you’re asked to contribute to a wedding or a funeral, or whatever, and you donate whether you’ve got the money or not. In some communities, we know that this kind of practice can lead to debt, and other problems. So some of those communities are starting to address that as well, and these are conversations we’ll start having.”

Money Week 2015

Money Week 2015 takes place between 31 August and 6 September, and involves events all around the country to encourage New Zealanders to get their finances into the best shape possible.

During the week there will be a range of activities, events, workshops, and a wealth of information to help you build your financial capability. Regardless of your level of financial fitness, Money Week offers something for everyone. From classroom exercises, campus activities and staffroom seminars, through to workplace, community and business initiatives.
Led by the CFFC, Money Week offers schools a good opportunity to investigate all things financial.

Find more information on the Moneyweek website(external link)


“I could easily live into my nineties. That’s 20 years of retirement or more.”
“I might wait to buy a house. Or I might not buy one at all.”
So say students in this video clip, highlighting some of the learning taking place in the Sorted Schools pilot.

Why learning about money is important: a clip featuring parents, students, and staff at Albany Junior High School.

The Commission for Financial Capability(external link) has useful information and links.

The New Zealand Curriculum Financial Capability(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 8:25 am, 10 August 2015

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