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 are therefore designing a financial literacy program for students between the ages of 12 and 14 in order to empower them with the capabilities to make sound financial decisions as they progress in life. The program aims to help them make thoughtful, well-informed financial decisions, both in the short and long term. It would also reinforce their transferable skills, enhance their problem-solving skills, and would show them how they can invest in their own human capital since they would learn how to Collect, Hold, Build and Release money while building their aspirations and expectations for their future education and training.
As part of developing this program, we have been doing research to ensure that the methodology we are developing is appropriate and relevant to Saudi adolescents; providing an experience that would be engaging, motivating, lasting, impactful, and would reach all socioeconomic levels found in this grade and age range. We are ensuring that the content conveyed to the students, and the tools used to convey this content, would lead to an experience that would bring about serious thought reflection, and behavior and attitude change towards money and finances. Consequently, the program content would be of relevance both inside and outside of the classroom.
We therefore carried out a comprehensive review of relevant literature relating to financial literacy (FIN LIT) and youth development. We found that the focus of the program should be on the 'relevance of the topic'. This is achieved by integrating real-world experiences into the lessons while considering the students' perceptions of their future goals. We also learned that the involvement of parents makes financial literacy programs for children and adolescents more effective, that the decisions made by students in their early years have an impact on their financial well-being as adults, and that financial literacy education is therefore essential; it is considered to be a 21st-century survival skill.
We also did some research on similar programs that are already being implemented around the world. Many of these programs are after school programs which can be very effective when it comes to assisting teenagers in making financial choices. In these programs, financial literacy content is complemented with behavioral change techniques such as positive reinforcement and goal-setting. Such activities cultivate self-awareness and facilitate the learning process.
Our team 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, whether they think of money as a means or an end, what they are taught by their parents, and what rules they are subjected to by their parents when it comes to their financial independence.
This field research took the form of interviews which we conducted through informal discussions with some teenagers in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. A pilot program was also carried out with some students through which we gave them set allowances and asked them to keep a diary in which they accounted for their spending practices. The views of these students were thus obtained along with the opinions of their instructors. We compared these findings with input from teachers and students who had not participated in this pilot program. We are currently using all these findings to design and develop a relevant Riyali curriculum that will be more effective. It will lead to an inclusive product that is engaging and interactive for teenagers, yet becomes a great teaching and learning tool for teachers and parents. As part of this product, a new digital currency will be created within the Riyali ecosystem which will give students the ability to Collect, Hold, Build and Release the currency as part of a gamified engagement involving their friends, families, teachers, and the wider ecosystem.