Youth, Stand up for Economic Citizenship!

Eva Lestant, Child and Youth Finance International, global education magazineEva Lestant

Child and Youth Finance International

[email protected]


Jared Penner, Child and Youth Finance, global education magazine InternationalJared Penner

Child and Youth Finance International

[email protected]   /  web:


Abstract: The 2008 economic crisis of 2008 brought awareness to stakeholders around the world that the lack of financial literacy, combined with financial deregulation, has brought many households to bankruptcy and poverty. Over the long term, the economic crisis had a considerable impact on the current generation of children and youth, and on how they earning, save and spend money. In order not to undergo the same scenario, it is evident that young people should be armed with the skills needed to secure employment and capitalize on livelihood opportunities, all in a socially and ethically responsible manner. Despite the innovative education concepts of Global Citizenship Education (GCE) and Education for Sustainable Development, Economic Citizenship Education (ECE) has not yet been considered as a key component within the discussions on the UN Post 2015 Development Agenda. However, by comparing both topics and learning objectives, much common ground and shared values between ECE and GCE can be found. The complementary contents based on social and life skills education should be expanded in order to raise awareness among national states, especially the ones expected to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. It is time to emphasize the outcomes and added-value of financial and livelihoods education to the present GCE topics and learning objectives. The Theory of Change, presented by Child and Youth Finance International, proposes that financial, social and livelihoods education, combined with access to appropriate financial services, increases financial capability and social empowerment, ultimately leading to greater economic citizenship. International actors should understand the importance of raising a financially literate and socially responsible generation, giving them the tool to become empowered economic citizens. Global Citizenship Education, and especially Economic Citizenship Education, can play an important role in making this happen.

Key words: Economic Citizenship, Education, Global Citizenship, finance literacy, social education.


The 2008 economic crisis placed greater attention on the need for individuals and community representatives to build a more solid asset base, increase their financial capability and follow more prudent financial management. The crisis called for increased financial responsibility and a greater sense of economic citizenship which is achievable through the expansion of financial inclusion and quality financial, social and livelihoods education around the world. A greater entrepreneurial spirit was needed to promote the economic growth required to enrich the lives of individuals and provide them with opportunities to secure a livelihoods for themselves and their families. Investing in quality education that equips people with the entrepreneurial and employability skills needed to succeed in the 21st century, while ensuring that they are grounded in financial and ethical responsibility, should be a top priority for policy makers and decision makers around the world. This was supported by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon during the opening of the World Education Forum in Incheon Korea in May 2015 when he argued that every dollar invested in education would generate $10 to $15 in returns. The social, political and economic challenges of the 21st century are calling for greater global citizenship and this has important economic dimension related to financial inclusion and Economic Citizenship Education (ECE).

A lack of education and meaningful livelihood opportunities creates a negative situation where young people can be forced into hazardous work, get dragged into criminal activity or become enrolled in armed forces or violent insurgencies, especially in conflict zones. There are still 168 million children engaged in child labor, with 85 million involved in hazardous work. This need for money amongst young people and their families paves the way to youth delinquency and crime, creating a spiral of poverty and illicit activity that many youth find incredibly difficult to escape.

While primary schools can provide basic literacy and numeracy skills, many children and youth, especially those in less developed countries, fail to complete secondary education and do not receive essential employability or functional literacy skills to allow them to successfully secure a meaningful and sustainable livelihood. Once they leave formal educational centers, these children and young adults are more likely to find work exclusively in the informal sector. A survey conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) showed that in countries such as Cambodia, Liberia, Malawi and Peru, more than 80% of youth are working in the informal economy, often leading to underemployment or exploitation. Working in such conditions is more likely to perpetuate poverty, financial instability and shortened life expectancy rather than develop sustainable and meaningful livelihoods. However, providing access to appropriate financial services, combined with quality social, financial and livelihoods education can encourage young entrepreneurs to achieve their economic potential and succeed in the formal economy. It also fosters a greater respect for asset building and social, financial and ethical responsibility, which are integral to developing the next generation of global economic citizens.

Full concept of Economic Citizenship

Child and Youth Finance International (CYFI) is a global network of government authorities, financial service providers, civil society organizations, multilateral institutions and academics who are all working to advance economic citizenship for young people around the world. CYFI’s mission is to expand a combination of financial access and education to 100 million children and youth in 100 countries by the end of 2015. CYFI’s Theory of Change proposes that, to achieve full economic citizenship, young people need to be financial capable and socially and economically empowered. This is achieved through financial inclusion combined with Economic Citizenship Education, a framework that integrates the three components of financial, social and livelihoods education. A diagram of the CYFI Theory of Change can be found below.

Global Citizenship Education

In an effort to educate the next generation of leaders, workers and inventors, education, both its pedagogy and its learning outcomes, must be adapted to tackle the new challenges faced by children and youth in the 21st century. Global Citizenship Education (GCE) represents a comprehensive move in this direction, emphasizing human rights, conflict resolution, ethical responsibility, creative problem solving and global connectedness. ECE, by extension, represents the economic dimension of global citizenship, ensuring that young people develop financial responsibility and essential life skills to secure ethical and sustainable livelihoods.

Although the concept of global citizenship is not new, GCE has only been explicitly named since the launch of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Education First Initiative (GEFI) in 2012. This was part of a three pronged educational priority from the UN Secretary-General stating that “education is much more than an entry to the job market. It has the power to shape a sustainable future and better world. Education policies should promote peace, mutual respect and environmental care.”With a large range of partners and advocates, GEFI created a political profile for education in order to mobilize stakeholders and funding to achieve the Education For All Goals.

Global Citizenship refers to a “sense of belonging to a broader community and common humanity. It emphasizes political, economic, social and cultural interdependency and interconnectedness between the local, the national and the global”. As broad as it can be, GCE includes all the knowledge, skills and values that promote a peaceful, tolerant, inclusive, secure and sustainable world. GCE enables students to develop values through critical thinking, problem solving, team work, and solidarity, in an effort to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.

The concept covers all three domains of learning: cognitive, socio-emotional, and behavioral. To each component, it affects key learning outcomes, and addresses topics to be discussed according to various age-groups.

GCE values related to ECE

The GCE and the ECE frameworks share a common ground when it comes to learning outcomes and core topics. Both share values such as diversity, social justice, human rights, self-engagement and responsibility. Indeed, ECE pushes for social and life skills education to complement financial literacy and entrepreneurship, ensuring that financial capability and enterprise ventures are developed in an ethically and socially responsible manner. The learning inputs will not only help them to better understand economic citizenship but also help them to interact effectively in their community.

GCE recognizes the concept of uniqueness and diversity of people. With unique needs, education should be for all, but even more “for each”. Respect for diversity is also part of core components of Social/Life skills Education within the ECE framework. This ensures that young people receive services customized to his/her needs and are accepted without any form of discrimination. Economic justice, included in social justice, can be defined as the moral principles which design economic institutions. In the context of ECE, it gives every child equitable opportunities, especially when it comes to economic opportunities. Furthermore, both GCE and ECE call for education at all stages to respect and uphold gender equality and all forms minority rights.

More than teaching fundamental values, ECE shared key learning outcomes of GCE’s behavioral learning component. Bridging ECE’s Social and Livelihood Education, GCE states that “Learners act effectively and responsibly at local, national and global levels for a more peaceful and sustainable world.”This reflects ECE’s values such as Employer/Employee Responsibility and Community Engagement. Making a sustainable and peaceful world requires that a globalized youth generation be actively engaged in different communities and take the necessary actions to affect positive change. Another key GCE learning outcome that bridges social and livelihoods education states that “Learners develop motivation and willingness to take necessary actions”which recalls ECE’s Leadership skills and Active Citizenship.

ECE, as a complement to GCE, provides solutions on how to tackle rising youth population growth and unemployment rates. The ILO predicts that “280 million jobs will need to be created over the coming five years to close the crisis-related global jobs gap.”It is estimated that 1 million Indians alone will join the workforce every month for the next 20 years. Through investment in educational programs, public authorities working with the private sector and NGOs have the responsibility to efficiently utilize its workforce to generate even more economic opportunities.

Economic citizenship is reflected in many of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and their associated targets, with the exception of SDG4 on education. GCE and Education for Sustainable Development are mentioned within SDG4 but there is no explicit mention of financial or entrepreneurship education. ECE provides a cornerstone for lifelong learning opportunities, financial capability and sustainable livelihoods, not to mention providing a foundation for financial and social inclusion. A combination of financial, social and livelihoods education should be an integral part of any education strategy that aims to achieve the ambitious goals and targets of the UN post 2015 development agenda. Economies are increasingly becoming knowledge-based, requiring skills and competencies to be updated regularly. Therefore, ECE and GCE should be combined under one target for education under the SDGs as this would allow educational stakeholders to create a new model for Global Economic Citizenship Education, respecting human diversity along with human rights and dignity.

The latest agreement that emerged from the Global Education Forum, the Incheon Declaration, has given a new approach to education for the post-2015 agenda. Rather than assessing the quantity of education, they decided to focus on classroom experience, and evaluate the learning outcomes. This new step shows that stakeholder have recognized the need for life-long learning to cope with the ongoing challenges of the 21st Century Economy. Quality education refers to skills, knowledge, values and attitudes but also proper information to enable children and youth to tackle basic socio-economic needs in order to participate effectively in the sustainable development of their communities. Financial, social and livelihoods education are two pillars through which critical thinking and problem solving can be understood. Furthermore, youth activism seems to be placed in the center of these concerns. The provision of quality learning is central to a nation’s democratic stability, and an individual’s orientation towards legal behavior and global citizenship.

The Role of CYFI in promoting ECE

CYFI has developed curriculum assessment tools to identify how educational materials or national curriculum frameworks are aligned with the core content components of the ECE learning framework. The curriculum mapping tools are used to improve existing programming and to profile exemplary programs that are providing a comprehensive coverage of the financial, social and livelihoods components. These tools can be used by both ECE and GCE education providers to provide an overview of their content coverage, which can provide valuable insight into programs that aim to achieve targets under the new Sustainable Development Goals.

CYFI continues to support government authorities and youth serving organizations that offer integrated financial, social and livelihoods education through both formal and non-formal channels. Turkey, Uganda, Macedonia and Nepal are all countries that are piloting integrated financial and social education through schools in the country along with CYFI’s sister organization Aflatoun and the UNICEF Child-Friendly Schools initiative.

CYFI also promotes ECE through global advocacy and knowledge sharing efforts is a global youth money awareness campaign which CYFI coordinates each year. During this week, activities and events are held worldwide to engage children, youth and their communities to learn how money works, including saving, creating livelihoods, gaining employment, and becoming an entrepreneur.  More than 5.6 million children and youth in 124 countries took part in 2015 Global Money Week this past March.  Hundreds of organizations showed their support for children and youth and arranged thousands of fun and interesting activities.

Finally, SchoolBank is a core CYFI concept that aims to increase financial inclusion and financial education of children and young people, through schools and other educational centers. It ensures that all children that are part of SchoolBank get a formal savings account and the appropriate education to know why and how to save. The project uses innovative distribution channels (schools) and technology (e.g. mobile banking and online banking) with the goal of financially empowering children and youth in a cost efficient way.


Generation Y, aged between 20 and 38 years old, has become the first generation to experience the advantages and risks associated with financial technologies during an economic crisis. However, the more technologically connected generation Z is advocating for change in their education. Thanks to the MDGs, more children have attended school and there is a greater demand for quality education. It is not only in terms of educational level, but a real concern about the remaining gap between the education delivered and the skills required for employability at the local, national, and international level. Therefore, there is a real need for economic citizenship that takes root in the sustainable development of our environment and global economy. This involves a financial, social and livelihoods dimension to engage citizens in the long term. However, in defining the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals, CYFI is willing to leave its mark on Global Citizenship Education; thus, sharing a common ground composed of financial responsibility, social values and sustainable livelihoods. All national stakeholders should be involved, including financial institutions and civil society. Economic citizenship must be considered as a tangible way of boosting long-term economic growth and establishing life-long returns. The Sustainable Development Goals should not focus only on global citizenship, but also Global Economic Citizenship, particularly through Economic Citizenship Education. This will help young people and their families prevent poverty, nurture strong communities and secure a sustainable economic future.


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This article was published on August 12, 2015, for the International YouthDay, in Global Education Magazine.

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