Manitoba seeks to raise money management education

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High school students will study everything from budgeting basics to the power of compound interest in an upcoming pilot project to improve money management in Manitoba.

Earlier this month, Education Minister Wayne Ewasko unveiled a 2023-24 partnership with Enriched Academy, a North Vancouver-based company with the motto: “We make financial freedom accessible to everyone.”

As far as Ewasko is concerned, every student who graduates with a high school diploma should have a basic understanding of how taxation, investing and credit cards work — and understand the importance of a good credit rating.


Education and Early Childhood Learning Minister Wayne Ewasko.

“You don’t necessarily want to grab a credit card just because you’re getting a free Jets blanket or something and then go putting a whole pile of money on it and then realizing that (the interest rate is) 23 per cent,” said the minister, a former math teacher, during a phone call this week.

Manitoba is earmarking $100,000 for the pilot, with a goal of reaching 1,500 students with financial literacy lessons, to be made available in both English and French, next year. Teachers can apply to participate in the program and use the company’s virtual resources to supplement classroom instruction.

The 2019 commission on K-12 education highlighted the importance of increasing financial literacy programming in public schools across the province.

Recommendation No. 16 (of 75) calls on government officials to replace Grade 11 and 12 phys-ed and health courses with “new and more rigorous required high school credits” that touch upon topics ranging from healthy lifestyles to financial management.

Ewasko indicated members of the public, post-secondary stakeholders, and business leaders all made clear their desire for improved financial education.

Enriched Academy was hired as a program provider because of its “proven track record,” he said, citing the Canadian education company’s extensive collaborations in Alberta, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

Kevin McCarthy of Enriched Academy said he finds it puzzling there’s been a longstanding gap in education on money matters.

“You’re going to learn about money one of two ways: you’re going to either learn it the easy way early or learn it later the hard way,” said the education company’s head of corporations and institutions. “We’re trying to help people avoid that second category.”

McCarthy said there’s a misconception people will proactively develop financial literacy skills on their own or at home, but he often hears from adults who wish they had formal lessons early on in life.

“This needs to be taught in high school to ensure everybody’s on the same playing field with this critical life skill,” he said, adding money — much like religion and politics — is a taboo topic and there’s significant stigma around being financially illiterate.

The online resources are anticipated to be used mainly in personal finance and essential mathematics courses.

This collaboration aims to better prepare students for adulthood, the education minister said, adding it’s an especially timely initiative because inflationary pressures, spending habits and supply chain issues have become popular topics in recent months.

The Manitoba Consumer Price Index rose 7.8 per cent, with hikes to transportation costs up almost 16 per cent, in 2022. The cost of food rose 8.9 per cent last year.

There are systemic issues with Manitoba’s numeracy curriculum that are causing challenges for students and teachers alike, and allowing math anxiety to flourish, said Sarah Melo, an independent math consultant in Winnipeg.

“Foundational math skills begin in preschool and early kindergarten… Unless there’s an effective intervention that happens early on, research shows that kids can be behind in numeracy until Grade 12,” said the founder of Melo Math 4 Kids.

The public school educator used a child seeing a quarter as representing a two and a five rather than a 20 and five as a prime example of a red flag that needs to be addressed early on.

Melo also noted the Grade 10 personal finance course is an elective often disregarded by high school students because they take other options geared towards their interests and necessary for admissions.

“And so, many students who end up going to university that have student loans never learn about personal finance. How is this possible? We’re creating a society to be in debt forever,” she said, noting Ontario’s recent decision to update financial education for children in Grades 1 and up.

As of 2020, Ontario’s elementary and middle-years pupils learn about “the value and use of money over time, how to manage financial well-being and the value of budgeting.”

Ewasko said more robust and mandatory financial literacy lessons are on the table as Manitoba continues to review curriculum.

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie