Northern Ireland is among the jurisdictions where financial education is statutory (as of 2010); for all students aged 4-14 years of age. Financial literacy is seen as a key life skill essential to enable young people to develop the knowledge, understanding, skills and confidence to effectively engage in financial decision-making. An integrated-curriculum approach is recommended in which the aims of financial literacy are infused throughout the whole curriculum and all areas of learning are required to explore issues relating to economic awareness.
To support the integration of financial literacy into curricula at primary and secondary level, the Council for the Curriculum Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) has a dedicated financial literacy website10. The website provides learning outcomes at five stages: Foundation and Key Stages 1 to 4. Learning outcome statements provide guidance about the most effective approaches to teaching financial literacy.
At the primary level, financial literacy is taught mainly within mathematics but is also addressed, as appropriate, across the curriculum. The following is the statement of learning outcomes and recommended learning activities at the Foundation Stage, provided on the financial literacy website:
“During the Foundation Stage, children talk about the need to pay for goods (the exchange of goods for money). They learn about the different ways we can pay (cash, cheque, credit/debit card). They talk about and recognise coins (from 1p to ?2) in various contexts and role-play activities, becoming familiar with coins in everyday use. They talk about where money comes from, how we get it and how to keep it safe. Children explore what to spend their money on and how it makes them feel. They talk about what it means to have more than we need and what people can do with extra money” (Northern Ireland Curriculum website)
At secondary level, financial education is a statutory aspect of learning within mathematics in Key Stage 3, focusing on developing financial knowledge, financial skills and financial responsibility. The statutory statement requires that young people should have opportunities to develop knowledge and understanding of personal finance issues, skills to enable competent and responsible financial decision making, and to apply mathematical skills in everyday financial planning and decision making.
Financial literacy is also a statutory aspect of learning within the home economics learning area, within the key concept of independent living. The statutory statement requires that young people should have opportunities to:
- • develop a range of skills to promote independence through planning, managing and using resources;
- • explore scenarios for future independent living;
- • investigate a range of factors that influence consumer choices and decisions; and
- • investigate consumer rights, responsibilities and support available in a range of scenarios.
Within the key element of economic awareness, additional opportunities are provided to highlight financial literacy across all learning areas11.
At Key Stage 4, financial literacy is covered within the statutory requirements of learning for life and work. Mathematics covers the calculations element of personal finance. Optional courses also include significant opportunities to develop financial literacy such as a new pilot General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) in financial services as well as GCSE courses in economics and home economics.
As well as overall statements of learning outcomes at each stage, the financial literacy website provides specific curriculum links to show how financial literacy is incorporated into various programmes of study. Draft overviews are also provided that show the ways that financial literacy is integrated into the learning areas for which inclusion of financial literacy is statutory at each Stage. The draft overviews provide a list of the specific learning outcomes for each learning area supported by suggested activities12.
Further guidance about effective practice is provided within the financial literacy website through lesson reviews at each Stage in the form of case studies. The case studies are written by teachers and describe the teaching approaches they used. Most lessons are based on providing students with the opportunity to demonstrate financial literacy in the context of activities involving relevant everyday situations that are of high interest to students.
Examples include: creating a healthy snack on a limited budget; visiting the supermarket to shop for specific items; preparing a budget for a school trip; investigating ways to fund specific consumer purchases. Lessons at Key Stages 3 and 4 also often involve the use of digital media-based resources such as DVDs, websites and interactive online games.