Why isn’t financial education taught in school?

It is a national consensus that financial education is good not only for individuals, but also the economy as a whole. So why is it still not required for students to take a class on personal finance while receiving a formal education? Many of them are on their way to accruing tens of thousands of dollars in debt while seeking higher education, so they should know how it will impact them, right?

With over 99% of adults surveyed by Harris Interactive agreeing that high schoolers should be taught personal finance in school, it seems like we are all in agreement. However, implementing these lessons into school systems has a few rather large road blocks.

Firstly, you have to find a teacher who is confident enough to lead a class on personal finance. According to a University of Wisconsin study, only one in five teachers feels that they are qualified for this type of work. Perhaps if these lessons were taught back when the teachers were in school that number would be much different. But, without instructors the classes don’t get taught.

Another road block comes from how our schools are setup. Education in our nation is run at the state level, so there cannot be a federal mandate to add a personal finance course into the required curriculum. That doesn’t mean that states haven’t taken it upon themselves to make sure these lessons get taught. As of this year, 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance. But only 5 of those states require a standalone semester course in personal finance.

The next reason most states don’t offer these courses is that there are no good ways to test for these principles. When these concepts are not part of standardized tests that means that the schools have to come up with a way to measure understanding. Creating testing materials on personal finance is a hurdle, so these tests don’t get made. Unfortunately, there is a saying among educators that says, “If it’s not tested, it’s not taught.”

So while some schools do offer personal finance classes to students, they are not a required course to graduate. They exist as perhaps the most important and beneficial elective not taken. Until these lessons are nationally implemented into the school systems, the responsibility of teaching the next generation about personal finance falls on those of us who know the benefits of knowing how to manage money.