Day at the museum

Text: Marta Cannistrà and Tommaso Agasisti, Politecnico di Milano
Photo credit: Marta Cannistrà 

Financial education at school is becoming a serious matter in Italy (too), maybe a cultural one, in some cases. Among these, there is surely the Museo del  Risparmio (i.e. Museum of Saving) in Turin (Italy) that is catching attention, especially in education sector. 

Thanks to a reciprocal interesting in other’s works, we have the pleasure to be invited by its director, Giovanna Palladino, to a seminar about financial education interventions, with different actors, from teachers to research centres. Taking advantage of this invitation, we enjoy a very interesting visit around the different museum’s halls: the knowledge, the understanding and finally the experimentation one. T

Interactive museum path

The museum path offers different propositions for children, young people and adults, using videos, games or readings about the main economic and financial themes. It is possible to find precise topics explanation, interviews to the main economic sector experts or short stories with historical notes, such as the tulips’ bubble in Netherlands. We discover that the museum proposes specific paths for schools, according to teachers’ necessities, also setting interactive laboratories where pupils need to collaborate to solve specific issues regarding their personal savings, or reasoning together to find common solutions to financial problems.

Once completed the tour, we attend the seminar, that specifically addresses the theme of Financial Education at school, integrated within citizenship education paths. Different institutions take the word, presenting the actual projects they are developing in collaboration with schools, and posing the accent on the importance of teaching basics of finance from elementary schools. 

Financial literacy level is still pretty low

In fact, thanks to its variety and versatility, Financial Education allows teachers to face it with youngest students, addressing topics regarding daily expenses or the value of money. In this context, the intervention we propose concerns the importance of the evaluation of Financial Education initiatives. In fact, the Italian situation seems to have two faces: from one side the number of programs related to this discipline increases every year, while, on the other side, the financial literacy levels among the population still remains pretty low with respect to those of comparable countries. 

Hence, a strong implementation of programs’ evaluation can be the answer to deepen what works and what does not. Anyway, setting an evaluation intervention requires to have clear in mind (ex ante) which are the objectives, the target and all the characteristics to implement with the program. Furthermore, Financial Education initiatives present differences from normal in-school activities to take into consideration when developing and designing them. For instance, there is not a common theoretical framework for the evaluation of such initiatives, commonly approved by the scientific community, that recalls another open issue about the difficulties in correlating knowledge and behaviour. In fact, even if many initiatives improve basic financial knowledge, it is not clear whether and how these will have influence on financial behaviours.

The day is face to the end and we come back to Milan after having known interesting activities taking place in Italian territory promoted by enthusiastic teachers and researchers. This surely proves that Financial Education is grabbing attention at all levels of education sector, but we are aware of the importance of an academic contribution for the development of this discipline.