Increase in teens taking personal finance classes

29 November 2007
More teenagers are choosing to study for personal finance classes according to the IFS School of Finance.

The financial education charity has reported that 10,000 teenagers are now taking the finance classes as one of their GCSE, AS or A level equivalent qualifications. The news follows a report from Price Waterhouse Coopers which claims that the average Briton is in debt to the tune of £33,000 compared to £17,000 in 2000.

Moreover, the Citizens Advice Bureau has also reported that in the last year alone, staff dealt with a record 1.7 million debt problems -a significant increase of 20 per cent on the previous year.

However, more disconcerting yet is the apparent lack of general financial capability in the UK today. A staggering 79 per cent of people do not know what an APR is, while a quarter of Britons have no idea how much they spend in a week and a further 26 per cent do not know what their monthly ingoings and outgoings are.

Now the hope is that by equipping future generations with the ability to make informed financial decisions, debt issues can be eradicated – something that is being acknowledged by schools and colleges throughout England and Wales.

New initiatives include the collaboration between the educational establishments and the ifs School of Finance – the only UK organisation to offer GCSE, AS and A level equivalent qualifications in personal finance.

Anne Kiem, Director of External Affairs at the ifs School of Finance, explains:

"The fact that more than 10,000 14 -19 year olds are now gaining the skills necessary to manage their own finances and make informed financial decisions is clearly great news.

"The feedback from students and teachers has been impressive, as has independent research from the University of Manchester. This research concluded that 95 per cent of students taking an ifs course were able to manage their own finances."

Now the Ifs is campaigning for a change to the curriculum which would see financial planning classes being taught on a par with traditional subjects such as maths, English, modern languages and sciences.

However, current and planned Government policy does not include any statutory provision of financial education in schools, and any form of financial teaching is incorporated into existing diverse subjects such as PSHEE, Enterprise Education or Citizenship which research suggests is less effective than a standalone subject.

Kiem adds: "With such clear evidence that these qualifications change financial behaviour, we are not surprised that so many schools are now ensuring they give their students the opportunity to gain such crucial life skills.

"However, tens of thousands of students across the UK continue to miss out on these opportunities and this is why we would like to see Government ensure schools offer their students the choice of taking a standalone qualification in personal finance.”

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