x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

A lesson in net gain

Visa is ramping up its drive to introduce financial education into schools by including a new video game.

To win a match of Financial Football, students must correctly answer a series of financial literacy questions.
To win a match of Financial Football, students must correctly answer a series of financial literacy questions.

The score is tied and the UAE and Qatar are deadlocked at one goal apiece. With the crowd roaring, the match goes to penalties and a player from the UAE prepares to shoot.

Suddenly, a question pops up on the screen.

"Savings accounts are considered low liquidity investments," it says.

With the option of "true" or "false", the player selects false. A moment later, the ball is struck and spins to the back of the net. The crowd goes wild and the player falls to his knees.

It's just another victory in Financial Football, an educational video game developed by Visa.

As Abu Dhabi prepares to host the FIFA Club World Cup next month, Visa, in collaboration with local schools, is ramping up its financial literacy campaign, which is aimed at teaching young people how to spend, save and use credit cards properly.

The idea is to provide accessible and engaging information to children with the eventual goal of introducing formal financial education in schools.

"We're trying to reach individuals and communities," says Lama Kabbani, the corporate communications manager for Visa.

"A huge part of this is working with third parties to get them actively engaged in our programmes, such as schools, governments and other organisations."

Visa launched its global financial literacy campaign in September last year. Called the Clinton Global Initiative, its objective is to reach 20 million people worldwide with financial literacy education by May 2013. So far, Ms Kabbani, says Visa has reached 10 million people and the Emirates is now at the centre of this initiative.

In March, at the Gulf Education Supplies and Solutions (GESS) conference in Dubai, 130 teachers from across the GCC region were polled by Visa. According to the survey, 95 per cent felt financial literacy should be included as part of their school's curriculum.

Since then, the company has been actively working with schools in an effort to bring more financial education into the classroom.

The Financial Football video game is at the heart of the programme. Featuring detailed graphics and hundreds of questions, players are invited to select their preferred country and skill level, ranging from amateur (intended for 11 to 14 year olds), semi-pro (14 to 18 years) and world class (18 years or older). The game looks much like any conventional football video game, but differs in that to advance the ball and score you must answer a series of financial literacy questions. If you answer a question incorrectly, the opposing team can steal the ball.

Ms Kabbani says the company has also developed a comprehensive curriculum and website that includes tips, information, lesson plans and money-management tests (www.practicalmoneyskills.com) to help schools get the message across to students.

When it comes to using credit cards, for example, the programme encourages the 20-10 rule, whereby people should avoid borrowing more than 20 per cent of their annual net income on all loans, not including the mortgage. Meanwhile, payments on these loans should not exceed 10 per cent of a person's monthly net income.

Paired with Financial Football, the company hopes its curriculum will be adopted by educators and play a leading role in providing an engaging and worthwhile education for children.

"These courses involve the basics of planning your budget, how to spend, how to deal with loans and how to buy your first house," Ms Kabbani adds. "It takes you through the various stages of life."

Dubai College is one leading institution in the Emirates keen to bring financial literacy into the classroom. In March, shortly after the GESS conference, the school invited Visa to introduce Financial Football to its students and present lesson plans to teachers for further learning.

According to Graham Penson, a spokesman for Dubai College, the reaction from the children was encouraging, and the institution is now looking at incorporating these ideas into the curriculum.

"Students enjoyed the experience and the general consensus was that it was a fun and interesting way to learn about financial management," Mr Penson says. "As such, we definitely feel it is worth including in our ongoing programme."

He adds that the idea of financial literacy fits in well with the school's existing "Home Alone" programme, which focuses on preparing children for university life. This specific form of education, he feels, is essential.

"Financial education is important across the board as it teaches students about the financial constraints they will face in the future, particularly in light of the current economic situation," Mr Penson says.

"It can be a dry subject, so we are continuously looking at ways to make this subject matter fun, interesting and appealing to them."

When it comes to budgeting, Visa supplies a full lesson plan to teachers, including what topics to cover, areas for classroom discussion, in-class assignments and tests at the end of each course.

Students are encouraged to create and maintain their budgets throughout the year and share experiences where budgeting failed. Finally, learning is evaluated by true/false questions, multiple choice and essay questions.

But, according to Ms Kabbani, the process hasn't been easy. Financial literacy in schools is a relatively new concept in the region and it takes time to develop these partnerships, she says.

Visa has engaged a handful of other schools and educational institutions in Dubai, including the International Technology Education Centre. Last summer, the company also held a series of summer schools in Lebanon as part of its financial literacy campaign.

Ms Kabbani hopes the upcoming FIFA Club World Cup, to be held in Abu Dhabi from December 8 to December 18, will place a spotlight on Financial Football.

"It's ideal and makes sense to target the schools," she says. "At the end of the day, it's the educational bodies that need to push the programme."

 

jtodd@thenational.ae

Go to moneyskills.com to play Financial Football