canadian dollar

Ontario students will start learning money smarts as early as Grade 4, when Queen’s Park rolls out a new financial literacy curriculum in September 2011.

Prompted by growing debt levels among Canadian youths and reckless personal spending habits that helped trigger the global credit crunch, the province will design lessons that can be worked into subjects up to Grade 12, said Education Minister Kathleen Wynne, who will announce the plan Monday in Toronto.

“The whole issue of how to manage money and risk is a really important concept – money and debt can become difficult issues in later life – but we can’t assume families will discuss these things at home,” said Wynne in an interview.

“But we’re not looking to create a new course; we want to build financial literacy into the existing curriculum.”

The government will create a working group to pinpoint the core concepts to be covered and will work with the non-profit Investor Education Fund to develop training for teachers.

Wynne said several provincial politicians supported the idea after Toronto school trustee Josh Matlow called last spring for a provincial curriculum in financial basics in the wake of the world economic crisis.

“When people feel out of control of their finances it can lead to deep depression, breakups of marriages,” Matlow says. As of January, student loan debt owed to the federal government surpassed $13 billion for the first time (the figure does not include provincial student loan debt). And according to a recent study by the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, six in 10 Canadians between 18 and 29 are carrying some debt; more than a third of those owe $10,000 or more.

Once the curriculum is finalized, Matlow hopes it will teach students as early as Grade 4 about basics such as budgeting. Eventually he would like them to learn to read the fine print of cellphone and credit card contracts, the effects of a bad credit rating, mortgage financing and how marketers and advertisers target them.

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