Japan: As A Cashless Culture Takes Root, Children Are Now Being Taught Financial Literacy

Young children in Japan are receiving financial education to help them better comprehend money as a result of mandatory high school requirements and the lowering of the age of maturity from 20 to 18.

Electronic payments have made it more difficult to deal with cash, and parents are concerned about how to instill a “money sense” in their children. In the meantime, educators are turning to tried-and-true pastimes and games to help get their point through.

An elementary school class in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, was playing a card game in late May when a fifth-grader came up with the idea. For this activity, students were separated into groups of four or five. They were then given a card and asked to identify what they considered to be the most valued, whether it was an item or a behavior.

“A colored pencil” and “one-hour care of a sick person” were the options presented to the participants, and Mihiro Tajima and Ako Goto both chose “care,” arguing that it should not be seen just in terms of cost. Although Tenma Saito had the same sentiment, he did so for an entirely different reason. He said, “I imagined my grandma as the sick person.”

One of the students, Tendo Tashiro, opted for the pencil since he enjoys drawing “When it comes to care, it would depend on who needs it. There may also be a risk of getting infected.”  “What we think has value and what we’ll pay money for changes depending on the person and the age. Let’s figure it out for ourselves,” Mai Araya, the teacher, said to her pupils. “Most students commute by train and do shopping via electronic payment using their IC transit cards. Since there are few opportunities to receive change, it is hard to get a sense that they’ve spent money,” Araya said after the class. “I hope that with money as a gateway, they will turn their attention to society and working people and discover the values” of various things, she said.

Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. created the card game as part of a financial education program to enable primary school students to think about the value of commodities and services for themselves via the flow of money.

National, public, and private elementary schools in six prefectures have either implemented or plan to use the program now that the financial services firm has begun to offer it. In response to specific requests, the Tokyo-based corporation will send personnel to work as teachers at local institutions.

A firm representative says that “the drop in the legal age of adulthood has made young people recognize the need to build their assets earlier than in the past,” which has resulted in a rise in the number of accounts established by 18 and 19-year-olds at MUMSS.

Through an educational program for youngsters, MUMSS aims to inspire the next generation of investors to take a more informed stance on their financial futures.

Since last year, the Oita-based Kid’s Money School, which teaches financial literacy to children ages 4 to 10, has seen a significant increase in requests from schools and local governments.

According to the group’s leader, Koji Miura, adults fear discussing money with their children since it is seen as “frightening.” In 2014, the organization started hosting seminars for parents and their children. “However, youngsters can flexibly learn and assimilate (the principles) of money’s mechanism,” he added.

Children between the ages of 5 and 8 and their parents attended a fake store in Tokyo in May, where they learned about how money and goods are exchanged. The weight of a bag full of one-yen coins equal to a foreign bank bill impressed the children.

Kyoko Uemura, a professor of family economics at Tokyo Kasei Gakuin University, recalls a time when financial education was geared toward teaching ladies’ household management skills and boys’ economics concepts.

However, she claims that schooling has “evolved” to the point that individuals of both sexes are taught how to handle their own living expenses. Parents shouldn’t be hesitant to discuss money with their children on a regular basis.

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