Kiwi teens savvy with their money

By Patrice Dougan, Sophie Ryan

Students score well in financial literacy but Maori and Pacific pupils lag behind

Kiwi teens are good with money. Photo / Greg Bowker
Kiwi teens are good with money. Photo / Greg Bowker

New Zealand teens are more money savvy than young people in other developed nations, according to a new report.

Fifteen-year-olds from 17 OECD countries were tested, with Kiwi teens coming in well above average in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study.

New Zealand was ranked number five based on the mean financial literacy score, just behind Australia.

Nineteen per cent of students here scored at the highest level in the survey - compared to the OECD average of 10 per cent.

But the report also highlighted inequalities, with Maori and Pacific teens at the lowest level of financial literacy, and wealthy children scoring better than those from a poor socio-economic background.

More than a quarter of Maori and 44 per cent of Pacific students scored at the lowest level, compared to about 10 per cent of Asian and Pakeha students.

At the other end of the spectrum, 25 per cent of Asian and 23 per cent of Pakeha students showed advanced levels of financial literacy, compared to only 7 per cent of Maori and 4 per cent of Pacific students.

Dr Pushpa Wood, director of Massey University and Westpac's Fin-Ed Centre, said the gap between rich and poor was "deeply concerning".

"What this really means is that, although the proportion of students at high competency levels is significant, we still have a disproportionate number of 15-year-olds from Maori and Pasifika backgrounds represented in the basic competency levels, and we do need to take note of this. We can no longer ignore this disparity and must find a way to unlock their untapped potential so they can fully participate in the economic world and navigate their way around the increasingly complex world of money."

Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell said the Pisa results provided "clear insights into where we need to concentrate our efforts".

"Financial literacy is an essential life skill and embedding it in the school curriculum makes absolute sense. We want young people to leave school equipped to make good decisions about money from an early age," said Ms Maxwell.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said it was great to see so many Kiwi children were financially literate. "The more financially literate our young people are, the better placed they are to make decisions that enhance their wellbeing," she said.

However, she admitted there were areas where "further improvement is needed".

About 960 teenagers across New Zealand took part in the 2012 survey.

Read the full report here:

- NZ Herald

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