Financial literacy will help Ontario high school students better manage their personal finances, and their futures

Michael Taube: Ontario’s financial literacy requirement for high school students is long overdueOntario Premier Doug Ford and his PC government recently announced a new financial literacy graduation requirement for high school students. The requirement is part of a series of new provincial education reforms, including the return of home economics education, consulting on building life skills, and new teachers passing a math proficiency test.

These reforms should help enhance the knowledge and understanding of Ontario high school students before they enter university, community college or the workforce. Other Canadian provinces would be wise to keep a close watch on the growth and development of these skill sets, too.

Let’s begin with the financial literacy requirement.

“Financial literacy is more than just knowing about money, financial matters and having the skills to work with this knowledge,” the Ontario government’s news release correctly noted. Students will, therefore, learn how to “manage their personal finances and understand financial decisions” and “save, invest and set long-term financial goals.”

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There will be mandatory classroom learning about financial literacy from Grades 1 through 8 in mathematics to build early knowledge, along with Grade 9 mathematics and a Grade 10 career studies course. Videos and modules for children and parents will also be available.

Students will need to “achieve a mark of 70 percent or higher” in the financial literacy requirement that will be part of the compulsory Grade 10 mathematics course. This will begin in September 2025.

Anything that improves financial literacy should be regarded as a positive development. As former Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty once said during his tenure as head of the Financial Services Roundtable, “Financial literacy is an important part of avoiding financial mistakes and planning for a strong, secure financial future.”

This new requirement will help increase a student’s knowledge about financial literacy in several ways, including the accumulation of wealth, paying off student debt and understanding interest rates, RSPs and mortgages. The earlier they learn about the value of money and how to save and invest properly now and in the future, the better.

It would be ludicrous for anyone to object to the Ford government’s financial literacy graduation requirement. The introduction of this requirement is long overdue. It’s something every Canadian province should require of their high school students long before they graduate and enter the real world.

Similarly, the decision to reinstate the math proficiency test beginning in February 2025 as a requirement for certification with the Ontario College of Teachers makes sense.

No one expects new teachers in Ontario to have the mathematical skills of Pythagoras, Isaac Newton, or Albert Einstein. However, some basic and grade-appropriate knowledge and understanding of math is a good idea. Teacher candidates will likely require some refresher courses to get back up to speed, but they should be able to pass comfortably.

Ontario’s Appeal Court, which reversed a lower court ruling that the math proficiency test was unconstitutional, would surely agree. “At the end of 2021, 95 percent of the 8,350 teacher candidates who had written the test one or more times were successful,” the Canadian Press wrote about the top court’s decision on Nov. 28, 2023, “including 93 percent of candidates from racialized groups.”

In addition, the test will be tied to the financial literacy graduate requirement, which, as previously mentioned, will primarily be taught in math courses.

What about life skills and home economics?

These two components are connected to the “back to basics” mentality revived during COVID-19. They’re both critical to a student’s development in this day and age.

Learning life skills is extremely valuable. The World Health Organization’s 1999 list includes problem-solving, critical thinking, self-awareness, coping with stress, and interpersonal skills, among other things. Mastering these important skills (and others) will help students navigate life as effectively and efficiently as possible.

There’s even a link between life skills and – you guessed it – financial literacy. A web page from RBC Wealth Management points out that “there are many important life skills people learn to master as they grow from young children into independent adults … Unfortunately, money management is often overlooked.”

Home economics, or domestic science, was part of the course curriculum when I went to public school. (It wasn’t taught at the high school I attended.) Students were given a basic introduction to cooking, meal planning, setting the table, etc. While some called it nothing more than a “bird” course, you have to know how to prepare a bird before serving it!

Financial literacy plays a vital role in home economics, too. As reported by the Canadian Press on June 1, then-Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce suggested that provincial students will learn about additional aspects of home economics “such as managing a household budget and how to protect themselves against financial fraud.”

Ford and the Ontario PCs have, therefore, introduced education reforms related to financial literacy. The math seems to add up.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and political commentator, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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