By Shannon Schuyler, U.S. Corporate Responsibility Leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
I come from a family of educators. While I didn’t choose a similar career path, some might find it ironic that I devote as much time as I can to connecting with teachers to better understand the challenges they face, particularly as it relates to teaching financial literacy. Their perspective informs the solution.
Trust me when I tell you that there is no shortage of teachers out there with a desire to help prepare their “kids” to make responsible financial decisions. The recent financial crisis made it very apparent that our individual financial well being is a responsibility each of us must own, and that starts with understanding from an early age how our choices impact our financial stability.
Educators understand the role they can play in helping to reinforce this message. They know that even young children can internalize behaviors that lead to financial responsibility, such as the difference between wants and needs. And many are seeking opportunities to do their part to help highlight this distinction early and often.
But very real and very unfortunate barriers are preventing too many teachers from integrating these habit-forming, big picture financial and life-building lessons into their classrooms, including a shortage of resources, funding and training. Couple that with limited hours in a school day already laden with other curriculum demands and I can understand why so many teachers feel paralyzed in their ability to make an impact in this area.
We must find a way to help those who by way of circumstance don’t have the resources they need to teach financial literacy. And by “we,” I mean those of us within the business community. We should share the weight of the responsibility these teachers feel. We should be pitching in not only because it’s Financial Literacy Month and a nice thing to do. After all, this isn’t just about arming students with the knowledge they’ll need to make sound financial decisions. It’s about building the skills of future business leaders for the benefit of our communities and economy.
We at PwC want to spread the message that there are so many ways businesses can make a difference. Partnerships with existing organizations can provide insight into the needs of teachers and students to make this a more cohesive part of our education system. These organizations can also provide your employees with opportunities to participate in skills-based volunteering activities that demonstrate to students the connection between financial curricula and real life business demands. Free resources exist to help make this happen.
Through funding, new gaming technologies can be researched and developed in an effort to change the sentiment towards financial literacy and make it engaging and fun.
An important prerequisite for financially literate students is a staff of educators equipped with the skills to teach financial competence. By collaborating with local colleges and universities, businesses can create training seminars that enhance the comfort level of those teaching these financial topics. These hands on sessions also provide businesses with an opportunity to recognize the achievements of those teachers and schools that are making great strides.
This is not a problem that one company is going to solve throughout the course of one month out of every year. There needs to be a commitment from businesses to keep going back to the cause. Steady progress will make this learning sustainable, and we’ll all reap the benefits.
PwC’s Earn Your Future is a $160 million commitment to increase financial competency, fill gaps in the education system and contribute to a healthier economy.