The future is debt . . .if you don't learn to live in credit

There should be more ambition behind teaching young people to become financially literate, Scotland's leading think-tank says.

In a report issued last week, the Scottish Council Foundation says the present approach is limited, largely by resources, to providing "a small amount of financial education on an occasional basis".

One approach should be to involve pupils in school budgeting and spending decisions. Other initiatives might include school savings clubs and community credit unions.

"There is little doubt that children and young people can benefit from financial education," the report states. "If, as one practitioner told us, 'the future is debt', young people will need to be equipped with the skills to engage with providers."

The foundation commends initiatives such as the Scottish Centre for Financial Education, based at Learning and Teaching Scotland, which aims to promote financial capability through the 5-14 curriculum. But it questions how effective current approaches are. More active learning through hands-on experience would be of benefit, it states.

There is also an unmet need for financial literacy among young people preparing to leave school and starting work, going into training, continuing with their education or at risk of achieving none of these.

The report rejects as "unhelpful" the targeting of financial literacy only towards disadvantaged groups. There should be a strategy covering the whole population.

None the less, the foundation lent its support this week to a pound;5 million "financial inclusion action plan" launched by the Scottish Executive which focuses on educating and supporting groups such as the one in 10 adults who do not have a bank account.

Johann Lamont, Deputy Communities Minister, went to Dundee to unveil the city's "save by the bell" scheme, where pupils learn the importance of saving and budgeting while at school. Ms Lamont endorsed the promotion of good financial knowledge "from an early age".

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