Money is not the root of learning

9th April 2004 at 01:00
Alvin Hall, American star of BBC2's Your Money or Your Life series, invariably latched on to apparently level-headed people who were simply hopeless with money. They never knew how to budget properly, spent lavishly on credit cards and ran up debts without so much as a glance at the monthly balance sheet. This is all too common, which makes Mr Hall a bestselling, rich author.

But where do you learn about money? At school? At home? At work? Like many aspects of life, you do not really latch on to information or appreciate the need for knowledge and skills until you come across them. Necessity is usually a trigger. Primary school and much of secondary is much too early for young people to grasp the significance of Standard Life's demutualisation plans. It probably baffles teachers, too, whose investments lie with them. But more young people are working and handling larger amounts of money and are quite at home making choices about which mobile phone deal to accept. They are more sophisticated.

Yet studies show that most of them do not understand money, how it works and how to make it work for you. Schools are still on the margins with financial education. Of course, teachers are encouraging pupils to set up bank accounts through enterprise schemes and promoting awareness of money in the curriculum. But most schools still concentrate on subjects and exams. That is what the public expects of them.

Teachers are happier delivering what they know best and, as the recent Inverclyde study shows, pupils from S1 to S6 largely do not rate their school's efforts in personal and social education. A waste of time, they said. So adding financial education to PSE may go the way of sex education and life choices, even if teachers are provided with excellent classroom materials.

Sadly, it will always be true that until you manage your own money, house and career without parental support, you are unlikely to grasp the significance of money management. There will always be a demand for Alvin's expertise - and lifelong learning.

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