Toronto Youth Cabinet leads the charge in financial literacy learning

News Apr 10, 2017 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

When it comes to providing a quality education, those who stand to benefit most — youth — are often left without a voice at the table. With financial literacy set to earn increased attention in Ontario classrooms, however, students across the province may want to give thanks to the Toronto Youth Cabinet (TYC).

First established 1998 by Toronto City Council, the TYC started out as a way of getting youth involved in municipal decisions. Nearly two decades later, the group has lent a youth voice to issues ranging from housing to transit to employment to education.

With the provincial government’s late March announcement that financial literacy would be one of the major planks of a career studies pilot program, one of the TYC’s main objectives have been achieved. Students will now get a firmer footing in terms of earning and saving, budgeting and money management.

The TYC’s focus on boosting financial literacy education started in 2016, when Prakash Amarasooriya joined the team and took on the role of school boards lead. He noted that in talking to youth about shortcomings in the education system, the lack of financial literacy education was a common refrain.

“We did research to see how financial literacy was taught in schools — we looked into the Ontario curriculum — and there were mentions of it but it wasn’t really directly addressed,” said Amarasooriya. “It was dispersed throughout other courses, but it wasn’t a focus. It felt more like an afterthought.”

There had been repeated calls for mandatory money skills to be taught in high school from various groups and politicians. The TYC also approached the Ministry of Education last summer to raise the issue, but felt their initial overtures were rebuffed.

“What we got from them was that they thought they were doing a good enough job with financial literacy,” Amarasooriya said.

Not content with that response, the TYC created a five-phase plan to increase the pressure on the government to devote more class time to financial literacy. They started with a petition and followed it up with a press release, and the attention those steps garnered was enough that the final phases of their plan — taking the matter to the legislature, conducting workshops and airing videos from youth talking about the importance of financial literacy education — were not necessary.

“Fortunately, the attention we got in the media was enough that we started to see the slight differences in the minister’s statements over the next two to three weeks,” said TYC executive director Tom Gleason. “It went from ‘We’re confident things are working well’ to ‘Changes are coming.’”

Gleason added that the TYC’s actions received nearly unanimous consent from people from across the political spectrum.

Amarasooriya noted financial literacy education will better prepare students for life outside the classroom in ways many core courses may not.

“It will help students take a look at their goals, values and (financial) decision-making and help them understand what their needs are and what their wants are,” he said.

“They’ll also get familiar with things like mortgages, financing and leases, or TFSAs and RRSPs. Those things can be confusing or daunting when you don’t really know about them, and this will help students understand them better.”

That knowledge will better enable young people to take control of their financial futures, giving them the tools they need to make smarter decisions.

Making the careers course and its associated financial literacy education mandatory will be another big win for students across the province.

“People from disadvantaged neighbourhoods will get as much in-school learning about financial literacy as people from affluent neighbourhoods,” Amarasooriya said. “And where putting a useful topic in another course was shown to be ineffective, this will make it way more useful to students.”

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said she was happy to hear from the TYC when it approached her with its call for increased financial literacy in schools. Having taken her role in the ministry last June, she was quick to see the importance of such instruction.

“They came to me to talk about ‘How do we bring this into schools?’ and I was really pleased to let them know that I was very supportive of this and wanted to see it happen,” she said.

Hunter added that she was impressed with the TYC’s commitment and preparation in bringing about change, noting that having engaged youth makes the education system work better not only for the students but for the province as a whole.

“It’s very important to me that I hear (from) students and connect with them on their learning and on their education,” she said. “Listening to students and allowing them to share their ideas and their perspectives around their learning is extremely important.”

With the TYC and other engaged youth organizations taking on leadership roles, there will surely be no shortage of ideas and perspectives coming the minister’s way.

Toronto Youth Cabinet leads the charge in financial literacy learning

Toronto Youth Cabinet led push for financial literacy learning across Ontario

News Apr 10, 2017 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

When it comes to providing a quality education, those who stand to benefit most — youth — are often left without a voice at the table. With financial literacy set to earn increased attention in Ontario classrooms, however, students across the province may want to give thanks to the Toronto Youth Cabinet (TYC).

First established 1998 by Toronto City Council, the TYC started out as a way of getting youth involved in municipal decisions. Nearly two decades later, the group has lent a youth voice to issues ranging from housing to transit to employment to education.

With the provincial government’s late March announcement that financial literacy would be one of the major planks of a career studies pilot program, one of the TYC’s main objectives have been achieved. Students will now get a firmer footing in terms of earning and saving, budgeting and money management.

The TYC’s focus on boosting financial literacy education started in 2016, when Prakash Amarasooriya joined the team and took on the role of school boards lead. He noted that in talking to youth about shortcomings in the education system, the lack of financial literacy education was a common refrain.

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“We did research to see how financial literacy was taught in schools — we looked into the Ontario curriculum — and there were mentions of it but it wasn’t really directly addressed,” said Amarasooriya. “It was dispersed throughout other courses, but it wasn’t a focus. It felt more like an afterthought.”

There had been repeated calls for mandatory money skills to be taught in high school from various groups and politicians. The TYC also approached the Ministry of Education last summer to raise the issue, but felt their initial overtures were rebuffed.

“What we got from them was that they thought they were doing a good enough job with financial literacy,” Amarasooriya said.

Not content with that response, the TYC created a five-phase plan to increase the pressure on the government to devote more class time to financial literacy. They started with a petition and followed it up with a press release, and the attention those steps garnered was enough that the final phases of their plan — taking the matter to the legislature, conducting workshops and airing videos from youth talking about the importance of financial literacy education — were not necessary.

“Fortunately, the attention we got in the media was enough that we started to see the slight differences in the minister’s statements over the next two to three weeks,” said TYC executive director Tom Gleason. “It went from ‘We’re confident things are working well’ to ‘Changes are coming.’”

Gleason added that the TYC’s actions received nearly unanimous consent from people from across the political spectrum.

Amarasooriya noted financial literacy education will better prepare students for life outside the classroom in ways many core courses may not.

“It will help students take a look at their goals, values and (financial) decision-making and help them understand what their needs are and what their wants are,” he said.

“They’ll also get familiar with things like mortgages, financing and leases, or TFSAs and RRSPs. Those things can be confusing or daunting when you don’t really know about them, and this will help students understand them better.”

That knowledge will better enable young people to take control of their financial futures, giving them the tools they need to make smarter decisions.

Making the careers course and its associated financial literacy education mandatory will be another big win for students across the province.

“People from disadvantaged neighbourhoods will get as much in-school learning about financial literacy as people from affluent neighbourhoods,” Amarasooriya said. “And where putting a useful topic in another course was shown to be ineffective, this will make it way more useful to students.”

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said she was happy to hear from the TYC when it approached her with its call for increased financial literacy in schools. Having taken her role in the ministry last June, she was quick to see the importance of such instruction.

“They came to me to talk about ‘How do we bring this into schools?’ and I was really pleased to let them know that I was very supportive of this and wanted to see it happen,” she said.

Hunter added that she was impressed with the TYC’s commitment and preparation in bringing about change, noting that having engaged youth makes the education system work better not only for the students but for the province as a whole.

“It’s very important to me that I hear (from) students and connect with them on their learning and on their education,” she said. “Listening to students and allowing them to share their ideas and their perspectives around their learning is extremely important.”

With the TYC and other engaged youth organizations taking on leadership roles, there will surely be no shortage of ideas and perspectives coming the minister’s way.

Toronto Youth Cabinet leads the charge in financial literacy learning

Toronto Youth Cabinet led push for financial literacy learning across Ontario

News Apr 10, 2017 by Justin Skinner City Centre Mirror

When it comes to providing a quality education, those who stand to benefit most — youth — are often left without a voice at the table. With financial literacy set to earn increased attention in Ontario classrooms, however, students across the province may want to give thanks to the Toronto Youth Cabinet (TYC).

First established 1998 by Toronto City Council, the TYC started out as a way of getting youth involved in municipal decisions. Nearly two decades later, the group has lent a youth voice to issues ranging from housing to transit to employment to education.

With the provincial government’s late March announcement that financial literacy would be one of the major planks of a career studies pilot program, one of the TYC’s main objectives have been achieved. Students will now get a firmer footing in terms of earning and saving, budgeting and money management.

The TYC’s focus on boosting financial literacy education started in 2016, when Prakash Amarasooriya joined the team and took on the role of school boards lead. He noted that in talking to youth about shortcomings in the education system, the lack of financial literacy education was a common refrain.

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“We did research to see how financial literacy was taught in schools — we looked into the Ontario curriculum — and there were mentions of it but it wasn’t really directly addressed,” said Amarasooriya. “It was dispersed throughout other courses, but it wasn’t a focus. It felt more like an afterthought.”

There had been repeated calls for mandatory money skills to be taught in high school from various groups and politicians. The TYC also approached the Ministry of Education last summer to raise the issue, but felt their initial overtures were rebuffed.

“What we got from them was that they thought they were doing a good enough job with financial literacy,” Amarasooriya said.

Not content with that response, the TYC created a five-phase plan to increase the pressure on the government to devote more class time to financial literacy. They started with a petition and followed it up with a press release, and the attention those steps garnered was enough that the final phases of their plan — taking the matter to the legislature, conducting workshops and airing videos from youth talking about the importance of financial literacy education — were not necessary.

“Fortunately, the attention we got in the media was enough that we started to see the slight differences in the minister’s statements over the next two to three weeks,” said TYC executive director Tom Gleason. “It went from ‘We’re confident things are working well’ to ‘Changes are coming.’”

Gleason added that the TYC’s actions received nearly unanimous consent from people from across the political spectrum.

Amarasooriya noted financial literacy education will better prepare students for life outside the classroom in ways many core courses may not.

“It will help students take a look at their goals, values and (financial) decision-making and help them understand what their needs are and what their wants are,” he said.

“They’ll also get familiar with things like mortgages, financing and leases, or TFSAs and RRSPs. Those things can be confusing or daunting when you don’t really know about them, and this will help students understand them better.”

That knowledge will better enable young people to take control of their financial futures, giving them the tools they need to make smarter decisions.

Making the careers course and its associated financial literacy education mandatory will be another big win for students across the province.

“People from disadvantaged neighbourhoods will get as much in-school learning about financial literacy as people from affluent neighbourhoods,” Amarasooriya said. “And where putting a useful topic in another course was shown to be ineffective, this will make it way more useful to students.”

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said she was happy to hear from the TYC when it approached her with its call for increased financial literacy in schools. Having taken her role in the ministry last June, she was quick to see the importance of such instruction.

“They came to me to talk about ‘How do we bring this into schools?’ and I was really pleased to let them know that I was very supportive of this and wanted to see it happen,” she said.

Hunter added that she was impressed with the TYC’s commitment and preparation in bringing about change, noting that having engaged youth makes the education system work better not only for the students but for the province as a whole.

“It’s very important to me that I hear (from) students and connect with them on their learning and on their education,” she said. “Listening to students and allowing them to share their ideas and their perspectives around their learning is extremely important.”

With the TYC and other engaged youth organizations taking on leadership roles, there will surely be no shortage of ideas and perspectives coming the minister’s way.