Life insurance to be taught in Australian schools
Reaching students, and teachers, while they remain a blank slate.
In recent years ASIC has been doubling down on financial literacy as a classroom subject, starting as soon as year 1 with storybooks like "Bertie's socks," in which young Finn and Judy learn to prioritise finances in the supermarket, running to games like "MoneySmart Town" where students guide an online avatar through financial ups and downs, and up to year 12 where students delve into topics like buying cars and paying rent.
Now life insurance is set to join the curriculum, as the latest move in a long line of efforts to help bridge Australia's vast underinsurance gap.
There's already a focus on educating students about general insurance products like car insurance, but life insurance needs more focus, said ASIC deputy chair Peter Kell.
"We've trained, I think, more than 20,000 teachers so far over the last few years. So it's something that we're taking very seriously and putting a lot of effort into. But there is a way to go," he said.
Why is life insurance being taught?
Describing the efforts, Kell said the objective is to embed financial literacy elements into existing classes, like maths and science, rather than set it up as a separate subject. Life insurance's first appearance as a potential classroom subject will probably be on the ASIC MoneySmart website in early 2018, among the other materials assembled for teachers.
"Young people are particularly at risk in today’s fast-paced and ever-changing consumer society as they are already making significant consumer and financial decisions." mentions ASIC teaching materials. Other key points it makes are that:
- "Students are growing up in a fast-paced consumer society where money is increasingly invisible and digitalised."
- "There is a growing range of choice and complexity in consumer and financial products."
- "There is increasing use of online and digital environments for shopping and making financial transactions."
- "Individuals carry a greater level of responsibility for the decisions they make in these contexts."
Is there merit for these claims?
All of these might be especially true of life insurance. Premiums are typically paid automatically - electronically, it can be an exceptionally complicated financial product and more life insurance buyers are moving to online channels and direct purchases, to cut out the cost of brokers.
Under these criteria, it's fairly clear that life insurance belongs in the classroom. The challenge might be reaching the teachers first, before they can effectively reach their students.
It's not the simplest subject, even for grownups there is a beginner's guide to life insurance, so it's difficult to imagine an effective classroom program, let alone one that students will be able to relate to.
It's also worth noting that teachers are as much a part of Australia's under insurance gap as other occupations, and being out of school and in the workforce, they might end up benefiting from additional life insurance skills even more than their students.