There are a huge variety of initiatives available designed to help promote financial capability, financial literacy and financial education. Whatever name you choose call it – learning about personal finance and the financial world is massively important. So why then is financial education continually overlooked by policy makers who have a responsibility to ensure everyone has an opportunity to access quality, impartial financial education?
In 2014 following calls from a range of financial experts, the UK Government added financial education to the national school’s curriculum. Initially this was seen as a positive move. However, the government did not provide any support for the initiative. Teachers were not trained in how to teach the subject, and no funding or guidance was provided. A stand-alone financial subject which could have been incorporated into the curriculum failed to materialise, and the already overworked teachers argued amongst themselves as to which lessons should accommodate financial education. Clearly this initiative was not designed to be a success, and four years on financial education continues to be ignored by national education organisations.
Despite personal debt spiralling out of all control (currently the UK’s personal debt stands at £1.58 trillion), the Government maintains it’s position of paying little more than lip service to furthering financial knowledge. Instead it is left to a mish mash of private financial education providers, some of which are effective, some not so. Other providers include banks, credit unions and even payday loan companies. Can these organisations really claim to be impartial when its in their interests to keep people in debt?
So, the question remains; why is a subject that has a massive effect on everyone continually ignored? Here’s a theory – the Government wants large numbers of the population to stay in considerable debt. The reason for this? A lack of financial capability, specifically debt, is a profoundly effective form of social control and it has become the primary method of accumulating wealth for the rich. It exploits members of marginalized groups, plunging them further into hardship. Financial situations determine where we live, where and how we work, as well as our mental health. From a young age we are conditioned to feel that a lack of money and/or debt is shameful. In a capitalist world our financial situations dictate most aspects of our lives.
Banks and other credit organisations use financial markets and the power that comes with having political and economic clout to accumulate staggering amounts of money. Preserving these privileged positions demands that they issue credit and create vast populations of debtors, from whom they gain commission, interest and ultimately profit. This profit comes at a cost. Not only is our labour the source of much of their revenue, but they also demand we work more to pay for ever-increasing interest rates that balloon if we miss payment. Now obligated to these financial institutions, people in debt are forced to become complacent labourers. Therefore, the general population is effectively controlled, and kept in their respective places.
Is it possible then that the rich and powerful, including the Government, are using a lack of financial knowledge and/or debt as a form of social control, thus preventing the general population from gaining the knowledge necessary to improve their financial situations? Looking at the evidence above it is difficult to argue against this.