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A teacher supervises students during a class at a primary school in Preah Vihear province last year
A teacher supervises students during a class at a primary school in Preah Vihear province last year Hong Menea

First day of school for financial literacy campaign

The central bank began distributing materials to schools yesterday as part of a program aimed at increasing the low financial literacy of Cambodians, which studies have shown makes them vulnerable to over-indebtedness and fraud.

The National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) sent out 100,000 comic books titled Let’s Talk Money! to primary schools nationwide. The books, developed in cooperation with Good Return, an Australian NGO that promotes financial inclusion and responsible lending, aim to educate children aged 8 to 12 on the basic concepts of savings, interest rates and managing daily expenses.

Chea Serey, director-general of the NBC, said after the launch ceremony that the initial print run of 100,000 booklets would see about 10 books delivered to each school, which was not enough, but it was hoped the private sector would lend support to the initiative and provide funding to print more copies.

“It is essential to educate people on the concept of loans and savings at an early age, because if we wait until they are adults to educate them, it will be difficult to change their behaviour,” she said.

“Moreover, when children learn and understand clearly about financial concepts, they will pass these ideas along to their parents.”

Cambodians fared poorly on the 2015 Global FinLit Survey, a comprehensive global measurement of financial literacy by Standard & Poor’s, with only 18 percent of those surveyed able to answer three of four questions on basic financial literacy.

Just 40 percent of respondents in Cambodia could answer questions related to the calculation of simple and compound interest, which is essential in understanding the terms of loan agreements, while only 21 percent were able to answer a question on diversification of investments.

Serey said the NBC was currently working with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) to develop a new syllabus on financial literacy to be included in the general school curriculum in the 2017 academic year.

The syllabus, to be taught to students from grade four through 12, will cover important concepts related to savings, lending and financial management.

Mok Sarom, deputy director general of education at MoEYS, said the syllabus would be integrated into four main existing subjects, mathematics, economics, social skills and ethics.

“We will teach children the basics about interest rates and interest calculation, as well as educate them to appreciate saving,” he said. “When we can manage our finances well, we will enjoy prosperity and avoid the pitfalls of over-indebtedness.”

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