High household debt, low savings rates and the prevalence of financial fraud call into question Canadians’ ability to make wise financial decisions, and there is evidence that Canadians need to make these decisions at an increasingly younger age (Ontario Working Group on Financial Literacy, A Sound Investment: Financial Literacy Education in Ontario Schools, 2010). Improving Canadians’ financial literacy through education has become a key strategy of federal and provincial regulators mandated to protect financial consumers.
Financial literacy is defined as “having the knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible financial decisions” (Task Force on Financial Literacy, Canadians and their Money: Building a Brighter Financial Future, 2010).
Both advocates and critics of financial literacy as a regulatory strategy agree that financial literacy education must start early in life to achieve its goals. Elementary teachers, however, may lack the knowledge and confidence to incorporate financial literacy education into their classrooms effectively.
As a result, The Task Force on Financial Literacy, appointed by the Government of Canada in 2009, recommended that teachers rely on resources provided by the financial industry. However, the concern with this recommendation is that financial institutions, in providing these resources, is in a conflict of interest between its interest in maximizing profits from the sale of increasingly complex financial products and services and teachers’ interest in helping students to become empowered consumers.
The Financial Literacy Project aims to examine this conflict of interest and will:
- Review and analyze resources intended for elementary teachers in the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada’s Canadian Financial Literacy Database, and other, similar databases to examine the extent to which these resources promote the interests of the financial industry;
- Survey a sample of Ontario teachers to gain a preliminary understanding of the extent to which they are incorporating financial literacy education into their classrooms and, if so, whether they rely on resources provided by the financial industry; and
- Conduct a “virtual revisit think aloud” assessment of the utility of the Canadian Financial Literacy Database with selected survey participants to gain insight into how elementary teachers evaluate potential resources and whether the resource provider affects this evaluation.
This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.