As part of its CSR program, SEDCO already has financial literacy programs for different grade levels of students in Saudi Arabia: Ashbal, Shabab and Rowad. However, middle school students were not addressed in these programs, and so we were approached to help fill this gap. We therefore designed a financial literacy program for students between the ages of 12 and 14 in order to empower them with the capabilities to set clear and achievable goals and confidently make thoughtful, well-informed financial decisions, both in the short and long term. Our program also needed to help reinforce the students’ transferable skills, enhance their problem-solving skills, and show them how they could invest in their own human capital as they learned how to Collect, Hold, Build and Release money while understanding that they could influence and have control over their future and earn something through their efforts. Additionally, the program needed to help students become more self-regulated when it came to their personal finances.
As part of developing this program, we did research to ensure that the methodology we were developing was appropriate and relevant to Saudi adolescents; providing an experience that is engaging, motivating, lasting, impactful, and reaches all socioeconomic levels found in this grade and age range. We therefore carried out a comprehensive review of relevant literature relating to financial literacy (FIN LIT) and youth development. This confirmed the importance of integrating real-world experiences into the lessons and of involving parents to make financial literacy programs more effective. Our team also conducted field research which helped us learn about teenagers’ life experiences, financial circumstances, interests and ambitions; we therefore discovered relevant trends in society among adolescents 12-14 years old. This field research shed light on the relationship teenagers have with money; the financial literacy sources they have access to, the financial tools they use (if any), what financial independence/management means to them, and whether they think of money as a means or an end. As a result of all this research, we have ensured that the program that we have developed, Ajyal Riyali, and the tools used to implement this program, lead to an experience that brings about serious thought reflection and behavior and attitude change towards money and finances.
Ajyal Riyali is a gamified experience that teaches financial literacy to 7th, 8th and 9th grade students in Saudi schools. The experience has been designed to be carried out over a 4-week period and is played both inside the classroom and outside of it. Inside the classroom, it takes the form of weekly classes where financial topics are discussed through games. Each class has it is own unique theme: Collect, Hold, Build and Release. In contrast, outside the classroom students take part in transactions with other students and perform voluntary work which they are rewarded for. This is possible through a point system which the game uses; each student is given a wallet with a set number of points at the beginning of the experience, and they are also rewarded with points for their good performance during the in-class games. In this way, the total number of points each student has is affected by their activities during the 4-week period; the students with the greatest numbers of points at the end of the experience are declared the winners.
By adopting this methodology of experiential learning, Ajyal Riyali enables students to learn financial concepts in a fun and interactive way, thereby making it more likely that they will remember what they learn. The pilot phase of Ajyal Riyali was carried out in 10 different Saudi schools in the beginning of 2019. 1,568 students therefore participated in the program. The teachers were provided training beforehand, and they used a digital platform to communicate with the admin and evaluate the individual classes and the program as a whole. Feedback on the program was also procured from students through the pre- and post-questionnaires, and through focus groups carried out with students and teachers and in-depth interviews carried out with parents.
This feedback received was overwhelmingly positive; not only did it make all Ajyal Ryali stakeholders proud, but we were also inspired and amazed as we saw how students took the experience to the next level, implementing it and benefitting from it in exciting new ways. It was clear how much the students enjoyed the experience and parents and teachers were satisfied with the program as well; proud of the progress they noticed in the students. The nature of the program gave students exposure to a learning methodology they were not accustomed to, which kept them continuously interested and ensured that they were learning by doing. What is more, the students’ creativity was triggered as they thought of, and implemented, different ways of earning points. It was clear to parents, teachers and administrators of Ajyal Riyali how the program would contribute to the financial security of these youth in their future lives.