Financial education is going to school. And not only at university or high school level, but also in the classrooms of elementary and middle schools. This is the strength of Kidseconomics,the economics outreach programme developed by the CNR (the Italian National Research Council).
Starting with a phase of experimentation that lasted from 2014 to 2016, Kidseconomics is now a reality that already involves about 3,000 students. The primary schools of Genoa, Naples and Turin, where the workshops were successfully presented and offered children the chance to become familiar with topics that are an increasingly important part of daily life (think of the spreading of micro-financing to pay for consumer goods, or the frequency of subscriptions), and which often also concern the youth. This is why specific courses were designed for each age group.
The Kideconomics project started in Genoa, Naples and Turin
In primary schools, for example, workshops are aimed at fourth and fifth grades, with a playful and interactive approach, alternating teaching with play activities, developed to stimulate the involvement of children. Among the topics covered are the market, public goods and the economic cycle.
In the didactic part some concepts are presented that are then put into practice by the children themselves, which for example simulate sales or include practical demonstration of the relationship between supply and demand. Guiding the children for about three hours per lesson is a team of professional scientific animators, university economics students and high school students in school work placements, especially trained by the older ones.
In terms of middle school, in February 2020 a project will start involving the Genoese children and organized with an alternation between the front-end lessons and a more fun approach that makes the children themselves participate in the activities.
However, the approach differs when bringing financial education to high schools, where the CNR provides plenary courses for the three-year course students, integrating group activities entrusted to students. In turn, these children will then be able to choose to become “teachers” through school work placements, thus sharing what they have learned with younger children.
In elementary schools, the front-end lessons alternate with play activities
Kidseconomics, as well as other similar initiatives, thus fill, at least partially, a great void in Italian education. According to the latest data provided by the Bank of Italy ,in fact, only 30% of Italians achieve a sufficient level of basic knowledge on issues related to personal finance, savings and investments, compared to an average of OECD countries which reaches 62%. And the number does not improve among young people: about 20% fail to reach the minimum levels of understanding of financial phenomena that affect daily life and only 6% (the average is 12) have maximum competence on these issues.
In order to address also this problem, a new law came into force in 2017 that promotes financial education with activities in schools and for adults. The law has established a team of experts, the Comitato per la programmazione e il coordinamento delle attività di educazione finanziaria (Committee for the Planning and Coordination of Financial Education Activities), with the task of creating and promoting popular initiatives. So in October, for the second year in a row, Financial Education Month was held, with meetings and workshops throughout Italy aimed to educate children and adults on pensions, on the market, on insurance and whatnot.
In addition to Kidseconomics, this picture also includes “Il risparmio che fa scuola (Savings That Teach us)”, an initiative promoted by the investment bank Cassa Depositi e Prestiti with Poste Italiane e the Ministry of Education. The project, divided by age, has already involved 7,000 Italian institutions and over 200 thousand primary and secondary students. All with the idea that understanding the economy and finance, and then consciously deciding how to manage their savings, should be part of the “passport” of each citizen.