The Money Mentor program is designed to empower our students with life long financial literacy that can be scaffolded as they become more entrenched in the complex financial decisions they may encounter beyond the classroom.
After working for over 14 years as a financial service professional, where I engaged with large corporates, business and retail clients, I realised there was a significant gap in consumer knowledge regarding how to manage their finances. This led me to asking myself, “If adults have difficulty understanding and making appropriate financial decisions, then who is teaching our children about these life skills?” Having three children myself and investing significant time in their academic development, I raised this very question with teachers, academics and parents alike. The responses overwhelmingly supported the discourse that there is inadequate existing pedagogical framework in schools to elevate student understanding on how to manage money effectively. Illuminating that targeted education for students regarding financial literacy in secondary schools could actually assist with bridging this gap at a pivotal stage of their lives. Generally this is between 15- 16 years of age, when mature financial decisions are required, for example when students enter the workforce and begin to receive wages for their casual / part-time jobs.
These middle secondary school students are of particular interest initially as, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test of financial literacy report undertaken in 2015, ‘many 15-year-olds struggle with financial literacy,’ (OECD 2020). Fifteen-year-old students from twenty countries and economies participated in this test, which found that in thirteen of these OECD countries, one in seven students could not make even simple financial decisions in their daily spending. Therefore it is important to educate students while in middle secondary to enable them to be productive citizens, which will lead to a positive effect on the nation and global economy.
This insight ignited my passion to contribute to changing this discourse, which coincided with a point in my career where I was reassessing my values and priorities, seeking a profession that I would not only enjoy but also hopefully make an impact on people in their life journey. “What better way than to be a teacher in secondary school?” Pivoting my career trajectory from finance to education I enrolled in a Master’s of Teaching (Secondary) course at Victoria University (VU) and connected with the VU Academy who undertook community projects. As luck would have it, VU Academy were undertaking the initial stage of a similar project, funded by Bendigo Bank where they were seeking to develop a financial literacy program that would connect with secondary students in low socioeconomic areas. Subsequently, I was employed to develop the content of the program, and then facilitate it to our first secondary school. At present, I have the privilege of project managing the Inner West Community Foundation (IWCF) Money Mentors program, which is its current iteration.
Fortunately in 2018 IWCF was the successful recipient of the Building Community Financial Capacity Grant from Ecstra Foundation. This grant enabled IWCF to work with VU to fund the design and creation of the Money Mentor program, initially targeting a variety of secondary schools in the inner west communities of Melbourne. Through this program secondary students gain key life skills to assist them to successfully understand and navigate their finances. The foundational knowledge obtained will not only enable students to actively use now, but also scaffold throughout the rest of their lives.
Author – Angela Martin, Program Manager
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