Teaching financial skills in primary school is important – game-based learning produces good results

10 May 2016

Me & MyCity, a Finnish education innovation based on game-based learning, significantly improves the financial skills of schoolchildren, according to a recent study from the University of Vaasa funded by the Academy of Finland. The results were published at a science breakfast organised by the Academy.

“The results prove that financial matters can be successfully taught to children as early as in primary school,” says Panu Kalmi, Professor of Economics at the University of Vaasa, who conducted the study. Next autumn, with the adoption of the New National Core Curriculum for Basic Education, financial matters will be introduced to pupils in Year 4. Previously, they have usually not been taught until Year 9.

“Financial matters should be presented in a practical way, using real-life scenarios, in order to make their management a natural part of everyday life later on,” Kalmi says.

In Me & MyCity, the idea is that pupils spend a day in a learning environment that simulates the operation of the economy, gaining skills and knowledge related to the world of work, the economy and entrepreneurship. The concept also includes lessons given in the classroom.

“It’s important to motivate primary school children to learn financial skills, since they haven’t had time to adopt bad financial management practices. In basic education, we can reach the entire age group,” Kalmi notes.

Girls and boys are equally skilled                                       

The University of Vaasa compiled the research material from 46 schools in Helsinki, Joensuu, Kuopio, Mikkeli and Seinäjoki over the course of the 2014–2015 school year. Both the initial and final survey were responded to by around 900 pupils.

The financial knowledge of Year 6 pupils improved by some 17 per cent on average during their participation in the programme. The results were obtained by comparing pupils’ knowledge levels before and after the programme. Examples of topics in which knowledge increased the most are the understanding of interest rates, business profits and the impact of competition on pricing. No differences were observed between girls and boys.

The study showed that the learning environment increased the pupils’ interest in saving and, thereby, encouraged them to save more money. The children felt they were learning skills that would be useful in managing their finances and in the world of work. “To make children active savers, it’s also important that they have their own bank accounts and that families talk about money,” Kalmi says.

Me & MyCity was created and is coordinated by the Economic Information Office. The learning environment, which has been in use since 2010, has already been visited by more than 160,000 Year 6 pupils.

Young people with mortgages are in control of their finances

For young people on the verge of adulthood, covering consumer expenses with a small income is a real challenge. “Consumption is important for young people, since it’s a means to anchor themselves in society and in their immediate community,” says Anna-Riitta Lehtinen, Project Planner at the Consumer Society Research Centre of the University of Helsinki.

Young people spend most of their money on housing, transport and food. Some under-24s also have mortgages. There are significant differences in the financial skills of young people with mortgages and those with consumer loans. Young people with mortgages who were interviewed as part of the YOUNG-DEBTS project funded by the Academy of Finland had good control of their finances, despite having large loans, and their indebtedness was not increasing – unlike that of young people with consumer loans.

“The financial management and consumer habits of those with mortgages are characterised by daily skimping, self-control and careful planning,” Lehtinen says.

“They have more goals and identified risks in their finances and lives, compared to those with consumer loans. They have prepared for risks by putting money aside, making accelerated repayments and taking out insurance.”

More information:

  • Professor of Economics Panu Kalmi, University of Vaasa,, tel. +358 44 712 3049
  • Project Planner Anna-Riitta Lehtinen, Consumer Society Research Centre, University of Helsinki,, tel. +358 50 574 4389   

Academy of Finland Communications
Tuula Toivio
Communications Specialist
tel. +358 295 335 156

Last modified 11 May 2016
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