Academic journal article Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal

Incorporating Financial Literacy into the Secondary School Accounting Curriculum: A New Zealand Perspective

Academic journal article Australasian Accounting Business & Finance Journal

Incorporating Financial Literacy into the Secondary School Accounting Curriculum: A New Zealand Perspective

Article excerpt

Abstract

This paper examines whether selected stakeholder groups believe accounting should continue to be taught as an elective subject in its current form at New Zealand secondary schools or whether incorporating a financial literacy component would increase the subject's relevance to students. A mixed method approach combining qualitative and quantitative research methods was used. An electronically administered survey was used to obtain the responses of secondary school accounting teachers, while additional insight in the form of semi-structured interviews was obtained from other stakeholders.

Although respondents generally agreed that students benefited from accounting as an elective subject at secondary school, all agreed that the development of financial literacy skills was important. Difficulties in introducing a new core subject into an already overcrowded curriculum were acknowledged. However, this difficulty could be overcome by making modifications to the subject "Accounting". As the most widespread, existing "finance" related subject, Accounting would be the most appropriate vehicle through which to teach financial literacy.

Keywords: Accounting, accounting education, financial literacy, New Zealand secondary schools

JEL Codes: M41; I22; M21, H31

Introduction

The objective of this paper is to examine whether accounting should continue to be taught as an elective subject in its current form at New Zealand secondary schools, or whether the incorporation of a financial literacy component will increase the subject's relevance to students. Recent changes surrounding professional accountancy education may have implications on whether and how accounting is taught in secondary schools and tertiary institutions. In 2011, the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA) announced changes to professional accountancy education (chartered accountants) requirements. These changes included a reduction in academic studies from a four-year to a three-year degree program requirement, with the professional examination changing to include four technical modules.

The continued relevance of the subject "Accounting" in New Zealand secondary schools was highlighted when the Ministry of Education issued the New Zealand Curriculum in 2007. Accounting was a notable omission2 even though it was expected that the subject would fall under the Social Science "Learning Area".3 The omission was surprising given the close fit accounting has to the curriculum's five key competencies: thinking; using language, symbols, and texts; managing self; relating to others; and, participating and contributing (Ministry of Education 2007). Despite its omission, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) Level 34 statistics show that students still see the subject as relevant as over 3,000 sat NCEA Level 3 "Accounting" in 2009, numbers which compare favourably with other elective subjects (e.g. Economics: 4,414 students; Geography: 5,925, and History: 5,587) (New Zealand Qualifications Authority 2010).

Secondary school level accounting has been the subject of limited academic research. In particular, subject content and the topic's relevance and usefulness to those who chose not to pursue university studies remain under-researched. Research internationally has focussed rather on whether school accounting adequately prepares students for the introductory tertiary level course (Baldwin & Howe 1982; Doran, Bouillon & Smith 1991; Eskew & Faley 1988; Farley & Ramsey 1988; Keef 1988; Keef & Hooper 1991; Lee 1999; Mitchell 1985, 1988; Rhode & Kavanagh 1996; Schroeder 1986; Swanson & Brooks 1984). Jones and Wright (2010, p12) suggest that studies such as these are warranted in that it is useful to establish whether prior exposure to accounting offers an advantage in the form of higher grades in the introductory tertiary course, or a disadvantage "perhaps as a result of students being too selfassured when they are presented with what appears to be a repeat of high-school material". …

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