How TikTok is helping me teach Aussie kids about money
Earlier this year towards the end of my Year 12 business management and enterprise class, I asked my students: "Do you think you are prepared with the necessary financial literacy skills when you leave school at the end of the year?" The overwhelming response was no.
Their response did not shock me.
When students choose their subjects for Year 11 and 12, there are currently no subjects that offer any financial literacy insight or practical money skills. In the Western Australian Certificate of Education, there are three business subjects that are offered: economics, business management and enterprise, and accounting and finance. These subjects allow them to better understand business, but not improve their understanding of money.
Don't get me wrong - allowing teenagers to understand the inner workings of a business is a great pathway into them wanting to enter that world once they leave school. But, shouldn't they understand and work on their own personal finances before they tackle something far greater?
I became passionate about teaching financial literacy as a junior cricket coach.
These teenagers that I would coach into maybe becoming the next Steve Smith or Ellyse Perry, I would also talk to about making responsible financial decisions, about buying their next cricket bat or how to save money for their first car. It floored me that these concepts were not being explicitly taught in schools.
At the same time, if financial literacy is not explicitly a part of the syllabus, especially in the later years of secondary education, then the resources will not be provided. As much has there been a push by the private sector to provide financial literacy programmes, teachers are already limited by their punishing schedules to deliver their programmes and co-curricular commitments, let alone deliver a separate financial literacy programme.
In 2016, the University of Melbourne conducted the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, which collected valuable information about economic and personal well-being.
Participants were asked to answer five financial literacy questions on interest rates, inflation, diversification, risk and money illusion. Only 28% of teenage (15-17 years old) males and 18% teenage females were able to answer the questions correctly. This has a flow-on effect where one-third of Australian adult men and two-thirds of Australian adult women do not understand key financial literacy concepts.
These numbers are extremely concerning.
I am lucky that I was brought up with sound financial advice and education from my parents, many of my friends and colleagues were not and hence struggle to understand home ownership, superannuation and risk diversification because they did not get the financial education they needed.
But for a movement to start, it needs one person to begin making a difference.
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I dedicate time at least once a week with my classes to discuss money issues with students. A popular point of discussion is the movement of the share market in the current economic environment. Our discussions always link back to the syllabus, and students get to gain knowledge in both their subject area and financial literacy.
I am also developing a survey for Year 11 and 12 students to paint a picture of the level of financial literacy at our school. The results of this will help me create a Financial Literacy Hub, where students can attend workshops before and after school to learn the money skills they will need in their lives after high school.
And I've turned to the phenomenon that is short-form video platform TikTok, creating the @thehistoryofmoney account to engage people about currency and other financial topics. The growing interest in it shows that teenagers are calling out for this information, delivered in ways accessible to them.
Governments need to step up to collaborate, engage and develop strong financial literacy education programmes with the financial and education sector so that we as teachers can be given the resources and time to save another generation of Australians from being left behind in developing vital financial literacy skills.