News / Toronto

Financial literacy skills will be part of grade 10 career studies next fall

Move comes after a push from the Toronto Youth Cabinet.

Prakash Amarasooriya currently works at TD bank where he meets kids all the time who come in and don't know the first thing about saving, credit cards or budgeting.

Vince Talotta / Torstar News Service Order this photo

Prakash Amarasooriya currently works at TD bank where he meets kids all the time who come in and don't know the first thing about saving, credit cards or budgeting.

All grade 10 students in Ontario will learn financial literacy skills as a mandatory part of the revamped careers course starting next fall.

The rollout comes after a push from the Toronto Youth Cabinet saw a pilot program test the concept in 29 schools earlier this year.

Prakash Amarasooriya, formerly with the Toronto Youth Cabinet and now a management associate at TD bank, led the charge last fall with a petition signed by hundreds, including several school board trustees, to incorporate skills like budgeting and understanding debt into the grade 10 curriculum.

While he would have preferred a standalone course on financial literacy, he called the addition "a step in the right direction."

Amarasooriya said he thinks many students feel "disillusioned" by a lack of life skills in the classroom. It's something the 25-year-old came up against when both his parents lost their jobs during the 2008 financial crisis and he had to take on five part-time jobs in high-school.

"During that process I was kind of forced to learn skills that were necessary for my day-to-day life, which I found absent in my school system," he said.

He's eager to see how the new course is rolled out.

"I always have a healthy skepticism when it comes to it being the full solution," he added. "It doesn't end here."

The new careers course will also include digital literacy and every school board will hire a new coordinator to expand learning oppourtunities with community partners, ministry spokesperson Heather Irwin wrote in an email.

Students will learn about things like budgeting, credit and how to calculate OSAP loans, she added.

Careers will stay a half-credit course, making up one full credit with the civics and citizenship course.

Financial literacy advocate Tricia Barry said she's "thrilled" to see money management become a part of the grade 10 careers course.

But Barry, executive director of Money School Canada, thinks this kind of education should start much earlier and have more than just a portion of a half credit devoted to it.

"Is that going far enough? I would say no," she said. "But something's better than nothing."

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