AUAS doctoral student calls for more financial education

'SpaarWijs' teaches pupils about money

30 Oct 2020 09:04 | Communication

The financial situation of young people is often worrying, and wrong decisions at an early age can have major consequences later on. However, according to Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) researcher Aisa Amagir, there is hardly any attention for financial education in secondary schools. “If we want equal opportunities, which is an important educational goal, financial education must become an integral part of the curriculum." She obtained her doctorate at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) on Friday, 30 October.

Amagir looked at financial literacy among 15-year-old secondary school pupils and investigated which factors are important in this respect. She then developed SpaarWijs, a financial education programme to help pupils understand, manage and plan their finances. The research and education programme were made possible partly by the Money Wise (Wijzer in geldzaken) programme of the Ministry of Finance.

Amagir, affiliated with the AUAS Centre for Applied Research on Education and teacher trainer in Economics, investigated the extent to which 15-year-olds in various types of secondary education in the Netherlands – preparatory vocational secondary education (VMBO), senior general secondary education (HAVO) and pre-university education (VWO) – are financially literate and what influence this has. The pupils’ type of education has an influence on financial planning, ‘thinking before acting’ and financial behaviour.

Role of parents

In addition, a large gap in financial knowledge scores was found between pupils of different educational levels. Pupils are also influenced by their parents at home. For example, pupils with highly educated mothers were found to have more financial knowledge. Pupils from families with a high socio-economic status also have more financial knowledge than pupils from families with a low socio-economic status. In addition, it is important for young people to talk about money matters with their parents and peers: this is positively related to their attitude to money and their financial behaviour.

Difference between boys and girls

Boys and girls differ in their attitudes to money and in their financial behaviour. For example, it was found that boys are more likely to see money as a status symbol and find ‘value for money’ important, while girls pay more attention to financial planning. Cultural differences appear to be reflected in pupils’ attitudes to money and financial behaviour.

A striking result is that pupils with a migration background attach more importance to money as a status symbol than pupils with a Dutch background. “Pre-vocational basic track (VMBO-BK) pupils who usually speak a language other than Dutch at home had a lower level of financial knowledge than pupils who speak Dutch at home,” Amagir explains. “However, I did not find any significant connection between the language spoken at home and attitudes to money, belief in one’s own financial ability and financial behaviour.”

Structural embedding in education

“Using my findings, I was able to focus on designing effective financial education programmes and looking at which groups could benefit most from them,” says Amagir. Based on this work, Amagir developed a financial education programme of eight lessons for third-year VMBO pupils: SpaarWijs. She tested the programme with 713 pupils from 42 classes in 16 schools. The results were promising. In the short term, for example, it was seen that SpaarWijs increases pupils’ financial knowledge levels, and stimulates their intentions to save and to earn an income.

Amagir: “Now there isn’t really anything to stop us from structurally embedding financial education, not only in secondary schools, but also in primary schools and higher education. With a continuous learning pathway we can tie in with specific events that children and young people experience in their financial lives. Training teachers who can shape this education is an essential part of this.”

Doctoral thesis details

‘You can’t just spend all the money you have.’ Financial Literacy Education among Young Students in the Netherlands.

The supervisors are Prof. H. Maassen van den Brink (UvA) and Prof. W.N.J. Groot (UM); the co-supervisor is Dr A.H.J. Wilschut (AUAS).

The conferral of Aisa Amagir’s doctorate took place at 17:00 on Friday, 30 October in the Aula (main auditorium) of the UvA. Due to the coronavirus situation, the doctoral thesis defence ceremony was attended by invitation only.