Money is on the mind, and rightly so

8th June 2012 at 01:00

Today's young people get a pretty bad press and they are not helped by some of the latest research into their materialism and obsession with celebrity culture (News Focus, pages 12-15).

Carol Craig, director of the Centre for Confidence and Well-being based in Glasgow, tells of parents on low incomes paying ludicrous prices for the latest fashion shoes or make-up parties for three-year-olds, and schools failing to equip children with the necessary values to make the right decisions. Researchers such as Tim Kasser, a professor of psychology in Illinois, write of a materialistic culture where possessions, attractiveness and popularity are what matter but appear to bring little happiness.

It's easy for children to be seduced by the glamour and glitter of celebrity lives, particularly when their own may seem dull and depressing. But how many seriously aspire to such dreams? This week's issue looks at financial education and what is being done to instil a sense of realism in youngsters and prevent some of the mistakes made by the previous generation, which have led to families losing their homes and whole countries facing financial disaster.

From P1-3 lessons on money to P4-7 introductions to managing a budget and secondary classes in tax, mortgages and borrowing, the same children that enjoy celebrity culture on television are growing up with greater financial savvy than many of their parents. At the same time they are being taught by Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) to be responsible citizens with informed, ethical views.

From Dumfries and Galloway to Edinburgh and East and West Lothian, classes we visited gave good grounds for optimism (pages 18-25). They were selected as case studies for some of the teaching programmes on offer, but the P7s in this week's Kids Talk (page 50) were picked at random and they show remarkably sound judgement when it comes to money and values.

Research by the Royal Bank of Scotland finds 70-80 per cent of Scottish teenagers save money and many have a good understanding of the implications of taking out loans (page 7). Only 57 per cent of that age group was learning about money management, but that figure is set to increase with financial education for all in CfE and new lifeskills mathematics at National 5 (page 25).

The big banks have had their own hard lesson in recent times. It's little wonder that some teachers are wary of letting them and their sponsored materials into schools. They are, however, a vital part of Scotland's economy that needs to attract both customers and workers. And if the Royal Society of Edinburgh's advice on the role of disciplinary experts is taken on board (page 5), financiers - like scientists and engineers - will be invited to work with schools and have more input into the curriculum and qualifications.

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