Financial Education in schools: the experience of the Bank of Italy and the Ministry of Education

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1 Financial Education in schools: the experience of the Bank of Italy and the Ministry of Education Maurizio Trifilidis Bank of Italy

2 Background The individuals decision-making process could be improved through financial education People would put financial literacy to good use if they had it Since knowledge is developed primarily at school, it is widely agreed that beginning financial education at school is essential, even if pupils won t be making their own financial decisions until much later in life

3 Background For this reason, in 2007 the Ministry of Education, University and Research (MIUR) and the Italian Central Bank started an experimental program in the Italian schools. The purpose of the program goes beyond providing pupils with basic notions and aims at making financial education an integral part of the educational curricula.

4 General features Elementary, Junior High and High Schools are all involved. The program is addressed to students in the last two years of each school level: age 9-10 in Elementary School age in Junior High age in High School

5 General features Experts from the Bank of Italy train teachers and provide them with educational material. The two institutions bring together their know-how: the Ministry of Education provides teaching skills the Bank provides expertise in banking and finance

6 General features Teachers deliver financial education in the context of the curricular subjects in specialized lessons Average number of teaching hours ranges from 6 to 12

7 Participants The program started on a pilot basis in the school year and involved Elementary, Junior High and High School In subsequent years the program was broadened nationwide thanks to the active contribution of the regional branches of the Bank The program has continued to expand: last year we recorded an involvement of over classes, the majority of which were in High School The number of pupils has risen together with the number of classes: The pilot exercise involved 650 pupils The edition of the school year involved about students

8 Participants Classes Pupils

9 Participants The increase in participants was broadly demand-driven Many schools were eager to have more classes involved than initially planned Word of mouth among teachers favoured the extension of the program to settings not initially involved

10 Participants It can be supposed that, in the aftermath of the financial crisis public opinion has put a particular interest in financial education, so more teachers felt motivated to introduce the topic in their classes

11 Evaluation A plus of the program is the evaluation design In accordance with international recommendations, the Bank and MIUR have included a systematic assessment of the program since the beginning

12 The evaluation design involves both teachers and pupils The effectiveness of the program is measured through tests and questionnaires Evaluation

13 Evaluation Teachers involvement is fundamental, so it was crucial to understand their perception of the experience. For this purpose the program included a postprogram survey questionnaire and teachers were asked to give: their assessment of training and resources their overall impressions of the activity information concerning characteristics of the classes We are currently working on this aspect

14 Evaluation Pupils took both a pre- and a post-program survey: 1. Background questionnaire» Socio-demographic information» Self-perception of school performance» Attitudes towards money 2. Knowledge test» Multiple choice questions

15 Gains in financial knowledge The program is designed to increase pupil s financial knowledge, so measuring individual learning can give us empirical proof of its effectiveness Pencil-and-paper multiple choice tests were considered the appropriate way to measure it for a number of reasons:» Italian pupils are used to multiple-choice tests» Quizzes are convenient for collecting information from a large number of individuals and increasing comparability» The idea of being tested may trigger students sense of competition and interest in the activity

16 Gains in financial knowledge The tests were developed based on the international best practices and with the assistance of the National Institute for the Evaluation of the Italian School System (INVALSI). They were mostly based on money and transactions, the core subject of the program The questions had four possible answers:» 1 correct» 2 distractors» 1 I don t know The right answers could not be deduced from other questions and were placed randomly to avoid any recognizable pattern

17 Gains in financial knowledge Tests were administered to pupils before and after classroom teaching on financial education The knowledge acquisition was defined as the gain in scores or the difference in the percentage of correct answers between the post-classroom teaching testing session (posttests) and the pre-classroom teaching testing session (pretest) The tests were differentiated by school level for both effort and duration» The number of questions ranged from 24 for elementary school to 45 for High School» The testing time went from 35 to 60 minutes

18 Gains in financial knowledge Post-test Test score Pre-test Effectiveness Classroom teaching T=0 T=1

19 Gains in financial knowledge The following table shows the percentages of correct answers on money and transactions for pupils attending both testing sessions in the school year Given the different degree of difficulty of the tests, we cannot provide synthetic statistics based on the data related to the various school levels

20 Test results Primary School Junior School High High School N. obs. Pre-test score Post-test score Gain ,2 63,5 25, ,0 57,5 14, ,4 54,6 15,2

21 Test results The comparison between the pre-test and post-test scores showed that the training caused and increase in the levels of financial literacy at every school level: all the gains were positive and significantly different from zero at high levels of confidence The tests were reliable gauges of pupils financial knowledge: since the Cronbach coefficients were higher than 0.75 for all school levels, the core set of questions showed internal reliability

22 Test results Furthermore: The sample allowed us to split the participant students into two subsamples:» Those who had covered some of the topics of the program during the previous school year» Those involved in their first year of financial training The pre-test results of the students involved in the second year of training showed significantly higher levels of financial knowledge than their peers on money and transactions The tests were different from those that had been used the year before, so it can be affirmed that some of the information learned the year before had been retained attesting the effectiveness of the program

23 Retention N. obs. Pre-test score Post-test score Gain Primary School ,2 63,5 25,2 Pupils educated in (A) ,1 63,0 26,9 Pupils educated in (B) ,0 66,2 15,1 Diff(A-B) -14,9-3,1 Junior High School ,0 57,5 14,5 Pupils educated in (A) ,8 57,3 15,5 Pupils educated in (B) ,6 58,2 9,6 Diff(A-B) -6,8-0,9 High School ,4 54,6 15,2 Pupils educated in (A) ,8 54,6 15,8 Pupils educated in (B) ,2 53,9 7,7 Diff(A-B) -7,4 0,8

24 Weaknesses Ideally, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of a program via pre-/post-tests, there should be a comparison between intervention and control groups. However, there was no control group. This for many reasons: The fact that participation is voluntary prevented its creation Social interaction and spill-over between students and teachers may contaminate the results Teachers refuse to be involved in the control group

25 Gender analysis Finally, I would like to show some evidence about gender There is a long lasting debate about differences in learning skills between males and females. Several empirical studies have pointed to a gender gap in financial literacy, with females showing lower levels of knowledge than males; the presumed causes ranging from cultural and social norms to self-confidence

26 Gender analysis Pre-test score Post-test score Gain Primary School 36,1 63,0 26,9 Male 36,7 63,3 26,6 Female 35,5 62,7 27,2 Diff(Male-Female) 1,3 0,6 Junior High School 41,8 57,3 15,5 Male 42,2 56,5 14,3 Female 41,4 58,2 16,8 Diff(Male-Female) 0,7-1,7 High School 38,8 54,6 15,8 Male 38,9 54,7 15,8 Female 38,7 54,6 15,8 Diff(Male-Female) 0,2 0,1

27 Gender analysis The empirical evidence showed that, before any training, boys had significantly higher levels of financial knowledge than girls at all school levels After classroom teaching the gender gap was annulled or reversed These results support the importance of starting financial education in Elementary School as the gender gap is already rooted in quite young children, and financial education programs might help reduce the differences

28 Next steps Robustness check Subgroups Correlation analysis [ ] Teachers survey Multivariate analysis Behavior model

29 Lesson learned Schools are an effective channel to spread financial knowledge to pupils Financial subjects should be integrated on a continuous basis in the compulsory education curricula Providing stimulating resources and training for all participants is essential It is crucial to develop common strategies among all the players from policymakers to private institutions

30 Thank you Maurizio Trifilidis Financial Education Unit Bank of Italy

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