School Branches, Classroom Financial Education Show Results
New research showed classroom financial education and school branches improved knowledge as well as attitudes about banking and saving among fourth- and fifth-graders and increased account ownership.
Conducted by the U.S. Treasury and the Corporation for Enterprise Development during the 2011-2012 school year, the study involved six elementary school branches in Eau Claire, Wis., operated by the $1.4 billion Royal Credit Union and three elementary school branches in Amarillo, Texas run by the Amarillo Happy Bank.
After they received five hours of classroom-based financial education, students demonstrated greater knowledge of financial concepts. Moreover, these knowledge gains persisted one year later, according to the study.
In addition, attitudes toward saving and financial institutions also improved as more students believe it is easy to save money and that banks offered services that are useful to them.
The research also found that access to credit union or bank branches “significantly increased the number of students who opened accounts and how actively these accounts were used.” School branches also improved attitudes about saving and financial institutions.
The study was conducted in part because some observers have suggested financial education should be taught beginning in elementary school to better achieve stronger economic outcomes, the Wisconsin Credit Union League said in announcing the results.
The study’s research brief noted that research on the effectiveness of high school financial education course is not promising, and that studies on the impact of financial education requirements on economic behavior later in life are mixed at best.
“Children (and adults) often show evidence of learning more from education if it is experiential and relevant to their lives,” the study’s research brief stated. “In the context of financial education, combining financial education with access to an account with financial institutions may provide one such opportunity for experiential learning. The account could provide students with a ‘testing ground’ to practice the skills they were learning in the classroom, improving overall learning and retention of the curriculum.”
The financial education program used in both Eau Claire and Amarillo was adapted from the Council on Economic Education’s Financial Fitness for Life Curriculum, drawing primarily from the lessons addressing savings, financial decision making and money management.
The Wisconsin league said it embraced and promoted the study and its findings, noting that credit unions operate more than 100 school branches throughout the state and also provide free instructional resources on personal finance to more than 350 teachers.
“More Wisconsin schools partner with credit unions than any other type of financial institution because of the trust inherent in working with member-owned cooperatives whose purpose is to improve the financial health of local people and communities,” said Brett Thompson, league president/CEO.