With so much growth in the last few years in education for financial literacy, it is pertinent to ask what we already know about the "secrets for success". Andrew McCoshan reviews some of the key international publications and works out what they mean for adult learning providers.
Getting quality into anything, especially education, is never an easy task: there are no magic fixes. However, in recent years there have come a number of important publications which offer insights into the factors that seem to be important in the development of quality in financial literacy education. Since these publications focus mainly on school education and take a strategic/national level perspective, it’s worth seeing what they might mean for adult learning providers keen to get more involved in financial literacy.
Here are my top 10 tips:
1. Assess the needs of the population for financial literacy education. This can be done at national level where surveys can be used to measure financial literacy, and also at local levels through less formal methods, tapping into local expertise in the financial services sector.
2. Map and evaluate current activities. This will give a good picture of the types of educational initiatives already underway and enable gaps in provision to be identified. More than that, it provides the opportunity to coordinate existing provision and to distinguish between financial product marketing and genuinely educational activities.
3. Partner with the private sector. The involvement of the financial sector itself is key – the industry provides the products to consumers that consumers need to better understand, and has first-hand experience of what consumers know and don’t know.
4. Involve not-for-profit organisations including consumer advice bodies. Such organisations already play a key role in helping people with their financial problems and could be important signposts to financial education schemes as well as getting involved in financial education itself.
5. Strongly focus on the interests of consumers. This is critical to balance the involvement of the private sector; codes of conduct should govern the involvement of stakeholders and should include a clear distinction between educational activities and commercial/marketing activities that might be undertaken by companies for their financial products.
6. Raise awareness about the need for financial literacy through communication campaigns. It's not enough just to start running financial education programmes: they need to be supported with awareness raising campaigns. Quality is more important than quantity, though, otherwise there is a risk of overwhelming the public.
7. Help people to understand their own level of knowledge. People often don't know what they don't know regarding financial matters. Self-assessment tools can be used, perhaps as part of communication campaigns and in order to direct people to relevant educational materials.
8. Develop broad-based programmes that promote financial literacy throughout life. This means being aware of what's happening in school level education and also adapting programmes to where individuals are in their life courses.
9. Get involved in training non-educators – there's an important role to be played in financial education by both financial businesses and not-for-profit organisations that provide consumer financial advice. Adult learning providers can use their expertise to make sure people in these organisations have the right educative skills.
10. Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate! Sadly at the moment little is known about how effective financial literacy programmes might be so evaluation will play a key role in improving provision.
What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Andrew McCoshan has worked in education and training for over 20 years. For the last 10 years he has specialised in policy development studies and evaluations for the EU, and before that was a consultant in the UK. Andrew is currently a freelance consultant, an Associate with the UK Higher Education Academy, an ECVET Expert for the UK, and a Member of the UK Education & Employers Taskforce Research Group.