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Ministry of Education wants students to learn financial literacy

In Belize, most young adults are forced to learn financial management after being hired for the first time. A few must learn to do so while studying, but often times without proper guidance leading them to dabble in risky financial behaviors. It is one of the many things that is not taught in schools, but most would agree it should. That is what the Ministry of Education hopes to jump start through this year’s Youth Innovation Challenge. It was held today under the theme “Literacy for financial security”. Students from ten secondary schools in the Belize District took part in the challenge which focuses on having the teams present innovative ways to promote financial literacy at their schools and engage students’ interest. Diane Danderson, Chief Inspector of Schools in the Ministry told us more about the event.

Diane Danderson, Chief Inspector of Schools: The objective of this program is that we want students to think critically, we are promoting critical thinking skills, creativity, innovation and as well as to give them an opportunity to come out and speak out to develop their presentation skills because each school develop a solution to the problem and they present it so students who we have seen over the years that students that don’t normally come out and speak come out and say something and develop those skills so that’s one of the main objectives. We also another objective is that we also invite the community mentors to work with these schools so the community get an opportunity to work and to interact with these schools.”

Dalilah Ical: These problems are focused on what specifically?

Diane Danderson, Chief Inspector of Schools: “Ok what we have done over the years is that we have brain storm with our stake holders what are some of the issues in the community like for example last year we look at violence among youth and this year we wanted to look at literacy because the Ministry of Education has launched Literacy as a national priority and because of that we are focusing a lot on literacy so we wanted to students to start to think about how can literacy change your life? How can you do things different so that you can ensure you that when you read, you write from very young but at the same time how does financial literacy fir into that because we can be very literate we can have degrees but if we are not financially literate then how far can we go in life so this year we are combing both of them to see to have students start to think about and schools have come back and the students have come back and have said that it has really made a difference for them because they have gone back and implemented financial literacy activities and programs in their schools that they didn’t have before, before they embarked on this program so it is really doing a lot for us and it is something that we want to expand and next year hopefully we can say that we are going to the districts and do it on a larger scale.”

Danderson says the Ministry has noticed that students are integrating technology in their solutions, many of which are applicable. Furthermore, Danderson says some of the past teams have implemented their solutions in their respective schools with success. Today members of two teams told us how they think high school students can best learn to manage their finances. One team presented COPE and found social media the best way to engage students’ interest.

Gabriel Hope, St.John’s College:“We created a Facebook page as a way to gain interest into financial literacy. On a weekly basis there will be different activities that will be happening every day for example Post it Monday, Topic Tuesday, Choose it Wednesday where students will be able to share ideas and information about topics that if not only they have to talk about in school but that will interest them personally so we use Facebook as an interest and we also created an app that we plan to use in the future that will create a virtual financial world that will pose as a way for students like a simulation. A virtual world where students are faced with ideas like taxes, bills and investments so that they not only learn literacy but they learn to coop with the needs of the outside world before they even get there so that’s what cope is about.”

Keenan Hyde, St.John’s College: “Everyone uses the interest and has social media so we use social media as a way to contact not only schools within Belize but in the other districts as well because what we are aiming for is not just one fixated area. It’s whole of the country as coming together as one to solve one problem because the problem affects all of us.”

Ashanti Rubio, Anglican Cathedral College: “My team came up with false court, it’s an app that helps you save budget and invest. It lets you do it for three months each and it really adapts to the updated technology that we have which will just make the students more interested in it. Financial Literacy is very important, it is in my opinion better to learn from a young age, it will help you in high school for example many of us don’t like to save, we just spend spend but learning it from an early age will help you to save, it will always teach you discipline in many different ways and I think it is a really good idea to add it to the school’s curriculum at an early age.”

This is the fifth year that the challenge is being held.