In Мay 2020 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) announced its findings on the financial literacy of 15-year-olds who participated in the Programme for international student assessment (PISA) 2018. This is the world’s most comprehensive and reliable indicator of quality in education policies.

Around 117 000 15-year-olds from 20 countries, including 4 100 Bulgarians, took part in the test and evaluated their knowledge and skills in various money-related aspects. This was part of the PISA 2018 survey on reading, mathematics, science and global competences. Results showed that the average performance of Bulgarian learners (466 points) was below the mean score across the OECD countries (505 points). Almost half of the Bulgarian participants (49%) were learners in vocational schools. The mean result of VET learners was even lower at 398 points, and variation in mean performance scores of learners across vocational schools was observed. The gap between the highest and lowest-performing vocational schools in Bulgaria was 270 points: the highest mean score was 550 points and the lowest 280 points. This gap represented a significant difference in the ability of 15-year-old vocational learners to address financial matters and to make decisions in financial contexts.

Data lessons on financial literacy in VET

PISA data show that teenagers in many countries already have experience of financial services. They have developed cognitive skills which allow them to search relevant financial information effectively, to compare and evaluate financial products, to interpret important details in financial documents, and to make decisions on financial matters.

On average, half of vocational learners in Bulgaria demonstrated basic financial literacy skills (proficiency level 1 and below). They were able to understand commonly used financial concepts, and make simple decisions on everyday financial matters. According to the PISA framework, these learners are not yet able to apply knowledge and skills in real-life financial contexts.

About 43% of vocational learners performed at levels 2 and 3, able to solve moderately difficult tasks. 5% of the learners performed at proficiency level 4 and demonstrated in-depth understanding of financial information and documents.

None of the vocational learners attained the highest level (5) on the financial literacy proficiency scale. This means there are no learners able to apply the knowledge and skills in complex financial contexts that may be more relevant to their future adult lives. In comparison, 2% of 15-years-old Bulgarian learners from general schools performed at the highest proficiency level.

The obvious conclusion is that the Bulgarian education authorities should be concerned about the financial literacy of teenagers. The development of a national strategy for financial education in schools, including VET could be a first step.