Shen Ooi from CompareHero.my advocates for the importance of financial education from an early age.
Malaysians today are exposed to the risk of high debt levels which can ultimately lead to bankruptcy. To be fair, most of us were not educated on credit cards, loans, or financial literacy during our days in school. But, should we allow this to continue with our younger generation?
Just to give you an idea of how bad the situation in the country is, nearly 82,000 Malaysians declared bankruptcy between 2013–2016 and this is a mere representation of those who are captured in the official data record. The high level of financial stress can be felt everywhere in the country today.
Bank Negara and the Ministry of Education have been proactively taking different initiatives to fully integrate financial education into our academic system by 2021, as our children and teenagers should get a chance to learn to manage their finances independently.
According to a study made by Discover as reported by Business Insider, high school students who had taken a personal finance class were more likely to save money (93%, compared to 84% of students who hadn’t taken a class), have a budget (60%, compared to 46%), and invest (32%, compared to 17%).
Even though the effectiveness of personal finance classes in our school system relies on the education structure and context, it is still better than our status quo.
Tan Jun You, who is the head teacher of the department of Mathematics for an international school, said: “I agree that personal finance is an important skill that deserves a spot in our education system for secondary but not primary. As far as we know, most primary students are still unaware of the importance of money and mostly just buy food in the school canteen with their pocket money. Secondary students, on the other hand, are clueless about financial knowledge and this leads to a lot of problems. For instance, they buy gifts beyond their affordability for their friend’s birthday.”
Apart from setting up a dedicated programme in our schools' personal finance curriculum, teachers should have access to training and adequate materials in order to teach children better. At the same time, schools can collaborate with financial planners to ask for the latter’s advice and design a specific personal finance programme instead of a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.
Above it all, parents play a crucial role in leading and guiding their children to possess healthy personal finance habits. After all, children learn by example and their parents are their mentors for the most part of their lives.
Parents should take a keen interest towards their children’s level of understanding of personal finance and financial instruments such as credit cards, loans and credit ratings that will be useful in their life later on. If you are one of the parents that are worried about your children’s future, make sure you speak about personal finance with them consistently and make sure they have the right information.
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