Why Estonian students are so good with money?

Text: Heli Lehtsaar-Karma, MTÜ Rahatarkus

Photo credit: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

The whole world knows about the brilliant results of Estonian students in PISA financial literacy survey, but the background of the great results has been discussed less.

Estonians are definitely proud about the PISA results of our 15-year-old students – we even outperformed Finns who’s education system has been a desirable example not only for Estonians but for all the world. So it’s time to discuss why Estonian students gained great results in PISA financial literacy assessment.

First of all – a new national curriculum for basic and secondary education came into force almost a decade ago (and was complemented again in 2014). A new curriculum introduced a system of teaching financial literacy in basic and secondary education comprehensively (grades 1.-12.) and not only in math or science but in every subject – for example in literature or history class. Another important change was shifting an emphasis from a teacher-centered approach to a student-centered one. This ment reorienting teacher training for more innovative teacher practices as well. To sum up – the reform has been successful and Estonian teachers have done a great job both learning themselves and teaching students.

Secondly – a good cooperation between public and private sector and NGO’s is worth mentioning. Private sector and NGO’s have been creating teaching resources for financial literacy, held guest lectures in schools and have been mentors for the student companies etc.

And last but not least – families. Some studies reveal that children will develop basic knowledge and habits about money by the age of seven. Considering the fact that adults in Estonia show quite a good scores of knowledge in financial literacy (but not such a good behavior), it seems that families have managed to teach essential lessons about money to their descendants. Furthermore, according to the latest PISA results 35% of 15-year-old students have gained information about money not from school but elsewhere. So the role of parents and friends – and of course society – should not be underestimated.

All in all – above mentioned reasons are not complete to analyze the reasons of Estonian student’s great knowledge in financial matters, but we can definately say that good result in financial literacy assessment is a joint effort of Estonian children, parents, teachers, schools and society.

OECD released the data  about PISA 2018 results regarding knowledge, skills and attitudes towards  financial topics of 15-year olds in 20 countries on May 7th. Almost all (95%)  of 15-year-old students in Estonia have basic knowledge of money matters.