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The Global Future of Financial Literacy

September is underway and that means it’s back to school for students. As teachers finalize their lesson plans, a growing number may be incorporating financial literacy education. In fact, many schools around the country have already begun integrating financial literacy into their curriculums. And it makes perfect sense.

Helping young people understand financial issues is a matter of great importance. Younger
generations are facing an increasingly complex financial field, compared to their parents, and they are more likely to shoulder more financial risks in adulthood, especially when it comes to saving, planning for retirement and covering healthcare needs. On July 9, the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau hosted the U.S. release of the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment financial literacy data. The assessment tested 15 year-olds on their knowledge of personal finances and ability to apply it to their financial problems. This is the first large-scale international study to assess the financial literacy of young people.

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Sixty-five countries or regions took part in the PISA test on mathematics literacy, students from 18 of these countries also tackled problems related to financial literacy. The U.S. scored statistically significantly below the OECD average. By comparing levels of financial literacy across countries, and specifically looking at which countries perform best, financial education organizations can begin to identify effective national strategies and good practices.

The results of the study state that “some education systems have demonstrated that it is possible to secure strong and equitable learning outcomes at the same time as achieving rapid improvements. Of the 13 countries and economies that significantly improved their mathematics performance between 2003 and 2012, three also showed improvements in equity in education during the same period, and another nine improved their performance while maintaining an already high level of equity – proving that countries do not have to sacrifice high performance to achieve equity in education opportunities.”

Financial literacy and equality in education are topics of global importance, and this study is just one of many that propose tactics for advancement. When citizens are equipped with the right tools to evolve their skills, they have a better chance of achieving their full potential, participating in an increasingly interconnected global economy, and ultimately converting better jobs into better lives.

Although it will take time for goals and implications of this study to come to fruition on a global scale, there are always opportunities to help support the cause. The AICPA has an array of free volunteer tools available to you so you can take the reins and provide education in your community. These resources include the Feed the Pig for Tweens curriculum and the Volunteer Toolkits. Contact Claudia Cieslak for more information on getting involved.

Has financial literacy been introduced in schools in your community? What do you think CPAs can do to advocate for this?

Claudia L. Cieslak, Communications Specialist, American Institute of CPAs. Claudia works on the CPA profession’s volunteer effort, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, and the award-winning public service campaign, Feed the Pig.

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