Estonian students top PISA financial literacy rankings

Student preparing to take an exam. Photo is illustrative.
Student preparing to take an exam. Photo is illustrative. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonian students ranked first among 20 countries to participate in the global OECD PISA financial literacy assessment in 2018, according to the results published on Thursday: as many as 95 percent of 15-year-old students in Estonia have basic knowledge of money matters⁠ ⁠— an area in which their results have improved significantly in the past six years.

The financial literary assessment focused on young people's understanding of money matters and their awareness of the risks associated with them, as well as how this knowledge can be used to improve their own financial well-being and that of society, according to a Ministry of Education and Research press release.

Minister of Education and Research Mailis Reps (Center) said that the national economy and people's continued well-being will largely depend on the financial decisions made by today's young people in the years to come.

"It is important to support our students' initiative — for example, establishing student companies — that provide them with important skills and experiences in school already," Reps said. "Our 15-year-olds are very bright, and we must be thankful for those who support them as well — teachers, families, entrepreneurs and others."

"Being financially literate provides better decisions in the future," said Gunda Tire, Estonia's PISA coordinator and a chief specialist at Foundation Innove. "Thus it is one of the most important skills and competences in modern society."

Participation in the PISA assessment allows for the knowledge and skill levels among Estonian students to be compared with those of their peers in other participating countries. A total of 117,000 students from 20 countries took part in PISA's financial literacy survey in 2018, including 5,371 students in Estonia, 75 percent of whom took the test in Estonian and 25 percent in Russian.

Estonia's average score, 547, significantly exceeded the OECD average score of 505, and placed Estonian students at the top of the ranking, followed by their peers in Finland (537 points) and Canada (532 points). Among other neighboring countries, Latvian students ranked 8th with a score of 501, Lithuanian students 9th with a score of 498 and Russian students 10th with a score of 495.

Estonian students on more even footing across demographics

According to the Ministry of Education, Estonia's results indicate that young people in the country have a good fundamental knowledge of money matters: the base level of the assessment was achieved by 95 percent of students. Their financial smarts depended very little on the socioeconomic backgrounds of the students' families and schools, and there was little difference between the results of boys and girls or between city and rural residents. This indicates that Estonian youth are on more even footing in terms of achieving financial literacy than their peers in other countries.

The average results of students from schools with Estonian as the language of instruction were 46 points higher than those of students from Russian-language schools at 560 and 514, respectively. The financial knowledge of students from Russian-language schools has improved over the last six years, however, and still ranked above the OECD average.

PISA assessments have indicated that the skills and knowledge of Estonian students in mathematics and reading are among the best in the world, which unquestionably serves as a strong foundation for the development of financial smarts, the ministry highlighted. The financial literacy assessment, however, indicates that those who read about money matters in textbooks for various subjects achieve better results overall.

Estonian youth obtain information about money matters first and foremost from their parents and other people close to them (95 percent) as well as online (82 percent). On the whole, however, little attention is given to money-related issues in Estonian families: for example, 40 percent of young people claim never to have discussed budget issues or financial news with family members.

Estonian students are highly independent when it comes to organizing their money matters: 87 percent decide for themselves what they spend their money on; 82 percent take responsibility for their own money matters; 75 percent have a bank card; and 51 percent do paid work.

Financial literacy is promoted in Estonia via the Public Program for the Development of Financial Literacy led by the Ministry of Finance. A follow-up program slated to be launched next year is currently being developed in cooperation with public- and private-sector partners.

Click here to read Estonia's full results (link to PDF).


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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