1 April 2021
LETTER: In Malaysia, efforts to pursue early financial education for the youngsters to be more financial literate has started and they are expected to begin in selected primary schools this year – a financial literacy programme.
The programme would be a collaboration between all Malaysia financial institutions known as Financial Industry Collective Outreach (Finco) alongside guidance from Bank Negara Malaysia (BNM) and a particular focus would be directed towards the underprivileged communities.
This is indeed a positive move that is in line with expectations and hopes but perhaps, Malaysia could start infusing financial education into the curriculum a bit earlier such as beginning at the age of 6.
Generally, children are known for their ability to absorb information faster and easily compared with adults. Past literature has shown that children make great strides in economic understanding between the age of 6 to 12, such that children's understanding is "essentially adult" around age 12.
By infusing financial education into the curriculum from an early age, it allows children to acquire the knowledge and skills to build responsible financial behaviour throughout each stage of education and life.
For the syllabus structure, the art of managing money should be taught – spending, saving, investing and borrowing. Financial education does not have to be a 'stand-alone' subject. Rather, it can also be integrated into other subjects such as economics and mathematics so that practical real-life experiences can be shown to the students.
In-school education should be considered as an additional medium of learning or as an alternative to home education about financial management because not all parents are sufficiently equipped or privileged to teach their children about money and levels of financial literacy.
Nevertheless, if it is possible, family plays a crucial role in shaping children's financial behaviour. Past research has shown that better savings behaviour is associated with an "authoritative" (supportive but structured) parenting style. Other research reveals that there is a significant correlation between parental teaching of money management and higher future credit scores.
At the same time, there is a need to pay attention to the competency of educators who are responsible in transferring the knowledge to the students in schools. Based on past studies, teachers' knowledge and skills are critical to ensure effective delivery of financial education.
So, educators from all disciplines should be provided with appropriate training related to financial management so that it can be applied through the teaching process.
This corroborates well with the strategic priority and action plans laid out in the National Strategy for Financial Literacy framework (2019-2023) that was launched by the former government. In other words, this framework needs to be continued and pursued as it is very timely given the current situation.
Financial education is a long-term process as it is difficult or not possible for one to absorb and adapt to new knowledge overnight or within a few days. Therefore, it is quite a clear message that this particular effort should begin as early as possible.
EMIR Research, Kuala Lumpur
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of the New Straits Times