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A dollars-and-sense approach to education

Financial literacy to be introduced as part of expanded curricula

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Manitoba students will soon be learning about topics such as investing borrowing, credit cards and debt.

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Manitoba students will soon be learning about topics such as investing borrowing, credit cards and debt.

For Manitoba children as young as nine, thoughts about the economy might extend no further than how to spend their weekly allowance.

That's about to change.

Education Minister James Allum will unveil a major expansion of the grades 4 to 10 curricula Wednesday to teach children more about economics, personal finances and business enterprise. Rather than add separate subjects, that knowledge will be incorporated into math, social studies and language arts when school starts in September.

The Canadian Foundation for Economic Education has worked with the Manitoba Department of Education for two years to insert the basics of economics into existing curricula, Gary Rabbior, a teacher and president of the CFEE, said Monday.

Manitoba will lead the country by launching the Building Futures in Manitoba program, which Rabbior hopes will become part of every education jurisdiction across Canada.

"We're working with Saskatchewan, and in discussions with Alberta and Newfoundland," he said.

"We've found existing areas in the grades 4 to 10 curricula," he said. "You'll get a detailed lesson plan."

There are 30 general areas to be covered in the seven grades, such as borrowing and returning/repaying, credit cards, budgeting, production and trade, managing debt and credit, making investments, major purchases and saving for the future.

Rabbior said his foundation is a national non-partisan body that includes business, labour, academic and education groups and organizations.

Investors Group will provide some funding, he said, but Manitoba Education's involvement will be staff time rather than financial.

The foundation will provide teacher workshops over the next three years to familiarize teachers with the lesson plans, Rabbior said.

"There's been so much resistance to any new area -- the curriculum is jam-packed already," he said.

That's why the foundation and the province concentrated on finding ways to weave economics into existing curricula.

Understanding the basics of the economy has rarely been the focal point of any core subject, Rabbior said: "Teachers have never been supported to do it. It is not an area of expertise that is prevalent across the country."

Manitoba Teachers' Society president Paul Olson declined comment until Allum makes his announcement Wednesday.

Rabbior said Australia has a similar initiative, but he was unaware of such an extensive and broad economic program in public schools in any other jurisdiction.

Students planning to go to university may take applied math and pre-calculus, but miss out on the personal finances that are part of the math essentials course, Rabbior said.

Eventually, there could be an optional credit course in economics offered in grades 11 and 12, said Rabbior.

Allum said Monday the province and the foundation have been co-operating on business education for 20 years. The new program will allow students "to gain the skills they need to navigate their financial futures as lifelong learners.

"We know that in our globalized world it is very important for students to become financially literate. For students to have secure financial futures, they will need to know how to manage their money responsibly. Becoming financially literate and making smart choices about how to handle money will help students have successful lives by having their money work for them and their families," said Allum.

Full details are available at buildingfuturesinmanitoba.com.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 4, 2014 A4

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