Japanese children learn financial education as cashless society takes hold


TOKYO (Kyodo) — Financial education for young children is growing in Japan to improve their understanding of money, encouraged by compulsory requirements in high school and the reduction of the adult age from 20 to 18.

The need arises as opportunities to manage cash diminish with the spread of electronic payments and adults worry about how to develop their children’s ‘money sense’. Teachers, meanwhile, are turning to familiar games and hobbies to help get the message across.

In late May, a card game was held in a fifth-grade class at Kamakura Elementary School attached to Yokohama National University in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture. Students were divided into groups of four to five and instructed to indicate what they thought was most valuable, an “object” or a “behaviour” from randomly selected cards.

Students at Kamakura Elementary School attached to Yokohama National University in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, play a game where they assign the highest value to ‘objects’ and ‘actions’ from selected cards randomly as part of a financial education lesson on May 25, 2022 (Kyōdo)

In a group that chose ‘one-hour care of a sick person’ and ‘color pencil’, Mihiro Tajima and Ako Goto chose care, saying it shouldn’t be treated simply as a matter silver. Tenma Saito agreed but for a different reason, saying “I imagined my grandmother as the sick person”.

Another student, Tendo Tashiro, chose pencil because of his penchant for drawing, adding, “As for care, it depends on who needs it. There may also be a risk of infection.

“What we think is valuable and what we will pay for changes depending on the person and the age. Let’s see for ourselves,” Mai Araya, the teacher, told her students.

“Most students travel by train and shop via electronic payment using their IC transport cards. Since there are few opportunities to receive change, it is difficult to have the feel like they spent money,” Araya said after class.

“I hope that with money as a gateway, they will turn their attention to society and workers and discover the values” of various things, she said.

This photo taken in May 2022 shows children at a Kid’s Money School event in Tokyo exchanging money and products in a fake shop. (Kyodo)

The card game is part of a financial education program developed by Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. to help elementary school students think about the value of goods and services to themselves through the flow of money.

Since the financial services company started providing the program in April, national, public and private elementary schools in six prefectures introduced it or decided to introduce it. Upon request, the Tokyo-based company sends employees to schools as instructors.

The number of newly opened MUMSS accounts by people aged 18 and 19 in April and May increased more than sevenfold compared to the corresponding period in 2021 because, according to a company official, “the drop in age legal majority has made young people recognize the need to build their assets earlier than in the past.”

MUMSS hopes to encourage the next generation of investors through the educational program designed to help children fully understand investments and risks.

Kid’s Money School, an organization in Oita City that provides financial education to children ages 4 to 10 across Japan, has seen a surge in inquiries about its programs from schools and local governments since Last year.

Adults tend to think money is a “scary” thing to talk about around children, says Koji Miura, head of the organization, which started running parent-child classes in 2014 “But children can flexibly understand the mechanism of money and absorb (the concepts),” he said.

In a class organized in Tokyo in May, five children aged 5 to 8 accompanied by their parents experienced the exchange of money and products in a fake shop. The children were impressed by the “heavy” weight of a bag filled with one yen coins equivalent to a foreign banknote.

In the past, financial education was meant to teach girls about household management and boys about finance in economics, said Kyoko Uemura, a home economics professor at Tokyo Kasei Gakuin University.

But education has “evolved to the point where people are learning to manage their own living expenses, regardless of gender”, she said. “Adults shouldn’t be afraid to bring up money in everyday conversations with their children.”


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