Awakening Of Malaysia Budget 2019: Getting The Youth To Be Interested In Financial Literacy

Most Malaysians are anxiously waiting for the Budget, which is scheduled for tabling in Parliament on November 2. As previously announced, the newly installed Government is focused on fixing the country’s fiscal finances, while improving the well-being of the rakyat. The average man on the street is bracing for what could definitely be a “belt-tightening” exercise.

One of the best ways of facing the likely impending financial challenges is to have every member of the family work together to help the family save money overall. The problem here lies primarily on the fact that most children are not exposed to Financial Literacy and in many cases, neither are the parents.

The overall population in Southeast Asia (and in Malaysia especially) are well aware of the benefits of financial education and widely show an interest in increasing their financial literacy and money management skills. However, there is a significant disparity between the realisation for the need of it and the actually action taken to put that in place.

However, many of  financial education programs in Malaysia tend to take on a short term approach – either through short workshops, books and activities which may be fun but lack mindset and attitude shaping, habit forming and a longer term assessment of the actual impact these programs make.

Experts in the field of Financial Education have long advocated that starting kids from a very young age on Financial Literacy has increased their awareness of the need to manage their finances well as well as set the grounds for them to acquire the skills, knowledge and habits that they would require when meeting with financial challenges in the near future.

In fact, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD, 2012) defined financial education in a school context as “the teaching of financial knowledge, understanding, skills, behaviours, attitudes, and values which will enable students to make savvy and effective financial decisions in their daily life and when they become adults”

In Malaysia, the Maybank Foundation has been pushing the envelope together with MoneyTree Asia Pacific, a leading provider of Financial Education for kids, to bring Financial Literacy to school going children in Malaysia since 2012. Combining an animated series, “Cashville Kidz” , with workbooks and assessments that measure the progress of these students, the program has reached more than 150,000 students across Malaysia over the last 6 years.

The program coaches kids on the different areas such as Spending Wisely, Saving Diligently and Investing Intelligently.

This effort and programme have been supported by IDRISSI International School. IDRISSI School is the first Islamic International school to collaborate with MoneyTree for a customised Islamic-value based  financial literacy program. FLiP.

Unlike most Malaysian schools who serve FLiP as an elective or extra coursework, IDRISSI  School makes FLiP as part of its school curriculum where  Idrissi School teachers are trained and certified by MoneyTree as financial literacy educators.

The global importance of financial education for students has been established through the efforts of international organisations such as the OECD (2005) that had recommended that “Financial education should start at school. People should be educated about financial matters as early as possible in their lives.”

The inclusion of a financial literacy assessment option in the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) for the past three consecutive times in 2012, 2015 and 2018 is evidence of recognition of its importance. In fact, the Central Banks in various ASEAN countries have started to initiate the development of Financial Literacy programs to reach a wider audience.

As at last year, Bank Negara had stated that it would be developing a five-year national strategy with the aim of elevating financial literacy among Malaysians. This would be an important step in developing a more financially aware younger generation.

IDRISSI School’s partnership with MoneyTree is a great example of an innovative school and financial literacy organizations taking up Bank Negara’s challenge to improve financial literacy among Malaysians. However, if we want to get young Malaysians to be more interested in discussing issues pertaining to the National Budget or actively seeking ways to manage their finances amidst the ever changing economic climate, there needs to be more initiatives that is introduced into schools.