As I write this post, the Investor Education Fund (IEF) is preparing for the debut this fall of a new, in-school financial literacy initiative that we hope will benefit generations of Ontarians.
I’m speaking about the new curriculum content that is the successor to our “Taking Stock” program for high schools. The new program, which will be launched this summer, will introduce financial literacy into grades 4 through 12 across the many subjects in the Ontario curriculum. It is easy to use, designed to be useful and fun for students. Before it arrives, I want to share its development history because it demonstrates the tireless work that went into getting us this far.
As many of you know, in 2009, we co-chaired the Ministry of Education’s Working Group on Financial Literacy, which recommended that the province of Ontario adopt financial education throughout the curriculum. The Working Group came after more than three years of lobbying with the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE) on behalf of financial literacy. CFEE is a nationwide, non-profit, non-partisan organization formed in 1974 to enhance Canadians’ abilities to make financial decisions with confidence. The result of IEF’s and CFEE’s efforts is the Working Group that I mentioned before; following our recommendations, the province rolled out its financial literacy plan in the fall of 2011. Our next goal is to make this plan a reality in schools.
IEF has a lot at stake in getting financial literacy taught in schools. We have been on the ground teaching financial literacy to teachers and students for more than10 years thanks to the amazing efforts of our team, led by the remarkable Chris Allum. Our free workshops on financial literacy for more than 10,000 Ontario teachers have helped countless schools and students. Since 2007, we’ve partnered with six of Ontario’s teachers colleges to help new teachers learn about the topic. These initiatives complement others, such as our ongoing in-class partnerships with the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and the “Funny Money” program, which we co-sponsor with the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada and work with our friends at the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce. Funny Money is particularly unique as it is an award-winning financial education program for high school students that features comedian James Cunningham. It covers personal finance basics, including money management, credit, debt and savings. The Funny Money show is now running in high schools throughout Canada and is booked six months in advance. It has been recognized globally and has recently won an award from the Global Chambers of Commerce.
From these experiences, we set the foundation to move to the next stage. IEF is focused on producing education material that is interesting and entertaining because our research makes it clear that a novel approach to financial education is needed. Simply put, we want to live up to our slogan of providing “inspiring financial education.” In this vein, we have developed new educational material for the Ontario curriculum in partnership with the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). OISE is among the most respected educational research and teacher training institutions in Canada, and it provides us with one of the world’s leading pedagogical teams to develop the new lesson plans. We’ve complemented this with an advisory group of leaders from inside and outside the school system in order to make the material relevant and interesting. The result is a practical, fun, easy-to-integrate, sometimes irreverent (but always relevant) tool for teachers to use.
We’ve put a lot of work into developing really innovative content that teachers can easily adopt into their courses. We’ll be undertaking an intensive program of raising awareness in Ontario schools, and we’ll see the results of this in the coming months.
Education falls within provincial jurisdiction. However, its administration allows for considerable local decision-making control in determining how curriculum is applied. Ontario’s dedicated teachers already have much on their plates. They need to know that this cross-curricular approach to financial literacy offers educational value without imposing additional burden on them or their pupils. They need to hear this message from administrators. They need to know it matters to parents.
That is why I end with this call to action. Anyone who cares about the financial education of Ontario school kids needs to push (along with us) to have the new curriculum widely embraced and to get teachers and administration to use tools, like ours, to raise financial capability. We need to push as parents and taxpayers because the best resource is useless unless it’s actively used.
That’s my take. What’s yours?
President of Investor Education Fund