Think Money Answer to Sound Financial Education
By Park Young-sook
Secretary General of YWCA of Korea
Research conducted in 2004 indicated that Korean students have relatively low financial knowledge, compared to their counterparts in Britain, the United States and other countries.
According to a survey conducted by the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS), the financial literacy of Korean students from elementary school to high school was about 40.1 percent. The result calls for an immediate solution to increasing the financial literacy rate.
Following the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis, many Koreans suffered from bad credit and financial problems. More than 7 million adults became credit delinquents after the currency crisis and still have not been able to recover their creditworthiness.
It indicated that about 20 percent of the total adult population was unable to carry out normal financial activities. Unfortunately, many children also suffered from their parents' poor financial status and became pessimistic about financial activities.
As a result, proper and reliable guidance of financial understanding is essential to children who are at the age of developing social values and skills.
Contrasting research in 2007 showed eye opening progress. The financial literacy rate for Korean students increased nearly 15 percent from 2004, with great efforts by the government, financial institutions and commercial banks.
Today, the Korean government is considering including financial education as a regular course in the school curriculum. It is important for young people to set a plan for his or her life. Above all, the main purpose of financial education is to help them facilitate such goals when it comes to giving advice, including how much money one might need in life and how they can manage personal finances to realize their dream.
In other words, young people have the skills to design their life through this financial education. On these points, YWCA of Korea and Citibank Korea have been responsive to the need for programs for young people and have worked together for the ``Think Money'' program since 2006.
Why Think Money?
The program offers classes for students in elementary school and middle school by 31 local YWCAs. Through the program, they get a chance to share various stories about money. Also, it helps them raise the right spending and saving habits, based on the five principles of financial education below.
First, open children's eyes to the value of money. Second, inform them of the possibility to change the utility of money. Third, make them aware of incentives. Fourth, educate them to control their desire for consumption. Fifth, help them set a model to apply in real life.
Think Money is different from other financial programs for the following four reasons. First, the program in progress is linked through each phase. The textbook for middle school students was produced in 2006.
That of senior elementary school students was introduced in 2007 as the second phase, and for the third phase, the textbook for juniors in elementary school was published early this year. Accordingly, students can be given phased financial classes according to their age.
Second, the contents of the Think Money textbook are practical and essential. In many cases, other educational programs are counterproductive as they try to deliver too much content.
Think Money develops understandable and interest-driving textbooks and programs for students, under the five themes of essential financial knowledge and values students should know. The main themes are also based on the financial activities they will experience in their lives.
Third, the textbook is suitable for each grade. For middle school students from seventh to ninth grades, the material contains practical financial advice. So the textbook can trigger interest in the program and the students can apply these lessons in everyday life.
For the seniors from the fourth to sixth grade in elementary school, utilizing Korea's rich information technology advances, multimedia-material is developed in the form of a computer game, so that education can be integrated with playing.
Since the juniors in elementary school are at the age to begin to form peer groups, a financial board game will be developed for more effective education in 2008.
Lastly, these teaching materials help students experience and simulate real financial activity.
Furthermore, the Think Money programs are running under a partnership of schools, enterprises and the local community. The employees of Citibank Korea and volunteers from the YWCA are assigned to schools and local YWCA centers, and also teachers contribute to spreading financial education and the program.
Through the Think Money program, the YWCA and Citibank have made and will make efforts continuously to help children realize not only the importance of earning and spending, but also gain financial knowledge that they can apply in their actual life, which will assist them in attaining the healthy habits in planning, spending, and managing money.
It is believed that financial education is a stepping stone for our children to prepare for a better future and to make this world a better place to live.