Election 2023: Labour promises teaching financial literacy to be compulsory in schools

A new Labour policy would make it compulsory for all schools to teach financial literacy to combat low levels of money and budgeting skills among school leavers.

It would require all schools to teach financial literacy to all levels by 2025.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins said current evidence showed the current approach means too many students leave school without the financial skills they need.

"Teaching of financial literacy will start in primary school and be taught mainly through maths and social sciences in secondary school," he said.

"We're setting kids up with core skills that'll teach them how to save for a home or their retirement; or become the innovators and entrepreneurs of the future."

A financial literacy framework will be developed with progress steps for each year level to achieve. The framework will be based on the existing 'financial capability progressions' to make sure all learners have core competencies around:

  • saving and investing
  • budgeting and financial management
  • setting financial goals and planning ahead
  • banking
  • borrowing, credit and debt
  • KiwiSaver and insurance
  • income and taxes
  • consumer rights
  • identifying and managing risk.

These topics are likely to be taught during maths and social sciences since the majority of existing resources are aligned with these subjects. However, Labour said it would finalise this after consultation with the sector.

Education spokesperson Jan Tinetti said schools will still have flexibility in how they deliver the programme, but there will be essential learning outcomes at different year levels.

"An important part of our plan will be making sure teachers feel they have the necessary skills and resources to teach it, and that they need to prioritise it within their classrooms," she said.

"This won't be an extra demand on teachers, rather it will make sure they have what they need, including access to existing programmes and partnerships and support through the newly-established curriculum centre at the Ministry of Education."

Labour said young people being taught financial skills has been inconsistent for over a decade. A report 10 years ago found a large variation in performance and many 15-year-olds were at the lowest rung of financial literacy proficiency.

Soon after that, a survey by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research found that while about a third of school leaders felt that their school had a strong emphasis on financial literacy, not all teachers believed they were required to teach it or that it was their responsibility. Only 18 percent of teachers said they regularly taught financial skills within a curriculum area, although 64 percent reported using teachable moments to include it.

Similarly, the Retirement Commission found 80 percent of the young people they surveyed wished they had learnt more about money at school.

Hipkins said young people knowing how to manage their money is "too important to be left to chance".

"We want all young New Zealanders to leave school knowing how to manage their finances."