The introduction of financial education in schools is part of the Brazilian National Strategy on Financial Education (ENEF). In 2010, Brazil introduced a pilot programme for financial education in high-schools and to measure the impact of the programme with the support of the Russian Trust Fund on Financial Literacy and Education and the World Bank20 before scaling it up in other parts of the country. This pilot followed two years of preparation to develop guidelines, the first materials and the implementation plan.

The schools programme integrates financial education within the school curriculum and incorporates case studies on financial literacy into mathematics, language/literature, science, sociology and other disciplines. In the State of Sao Paulo, for example, there were schools that chose to include the financial content into five different disciplines at the same time.

The pilot study design was based on random assignment. Schools that volunteered to be part of the programme were randomly selected to be either in the “treatment group” or the “control group”. The randomisation was done at the school level and divided the pilot study sample into two groups: a treatment groups that received both textbooks and teacher training, and a control group. In order to also gauge the potential effects on parents, half of the parents in treatment schools were randomly selected to participate in a parent financial education workshop.

In total 891 schools in six states (439 treatment and 452 control schools) and approximately 26 000 students (one class per school) participated in the evaluation of the pilot.

Box 2.2. Timeline of the Brazilian evaluation of financial education in schools

  • • April-May 2010: the list of interested schools was determined with help of the different State Ministries of Education. Once the volunteers sample put together, they were randomly divided into treatment and control group.
  • • May-July 2010: teacher training began.
  • • Early August 2010: baseline survey conducted.
  • • Mid-August 2010: Teachers began teaching the material developed by the working group (until November 2011).
  • • Late November 2010: First follow-up survey (following one semester of financial education).
  • • Spring/Summer 2011: Parent workshops.
  • • November 2011: Second follow-up survey.
  • • July 2013: Evaluation results published.

The random assignment method helped determine whether the school-based financial education programme led to changes in financial knowledge, attitudes, and decisionmaking. The outcomes of interest were at the student level and at the family level.

The evaluation included three instruments: a financial literacy test, a students’ questionnaire, and a parents’ questionnaire. These three instruments were specifically designed for the production of various measures: the measure of financial literacy, the extent of autonomy of students on financial matters and the level of intention to save.

The results are very encouraging (Bruhn et al, forthcoming). The follow-up surveys demonstrated that the average level of financial proficiency is higher in the treatment group than in the control group. The same is true for the level of financial autonomy and for the attitude to savings. All effects are statistically significant (at 1% level in most cases). There were also positive effects on parents. The evaluation found an increase in parental financial knowledge, in the discussion of financial matters within families and a higher number of families drafting a household budget.

The policy implications of the pilot are considerable. The Ministry of Education has decided to scale up the programme to the 5 000 Brazilian high schools, and to pilot a programme for primary schools. It was also decided to develop a virtual platform for national dissemination of resources and the further development of guidance. Finally, depending on feasibility, students will be tracked over time after leaving school using the national identification number (CPF).

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