Final Report

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Final Report


This report summarizes the findings of the impact evaluation of Brazil’s Financial Literacy Pilot project presented during a workshop held in Rio de Janeiro on May 9-10, 2011. This report also documents the impact that the workshop had, including the discussion generated among participants and the press coverage of the event1. It is the final product for the Brazil Financial Literacy Seminar (P123754). The first part of this document provides a brief description of the pilot project including an overview of the evaluation methodology used. The second part reviews the results of the impact evaluation and the discussions generated during the workshop. The last section highlights the main conclusions. Finally, there are annexes which provide more detailed information on the presentations given during the workshop and the media coverage of the event.

Executive Summary

In late 2009 the Bank received a request to support for an impact evaluation for the Financial Literacy (FL) Pilot project the Government was about to implement. The Bank became one of the strategic partners in the program that is the largest FL initiative supported by the Bank and one of the largest in the world. Subsequently, the government approached the partners in the project and outlined the idea of the workshop as an opportunity to present and review the results of the pilot project. The World Bank team concurred with the idea as it would provide a forum to discuss the methodology and findings and also consolidate the project’s positive perception among key stakeholders.

The World Bank and the São Paulo Stock Exchange (BM&FBOVESPA) organized and financed the Financial Literacy Workshop that took place in Rio de Janeiro on May 9 and 10, 2011. The purpose of the workshop was to support the dissemination of the Brazilian government’s National Financial Education Strategy (Estratégia Nacional de Educação Financeira – ENEF). The workshop took place at the Convention Center of the Rio Stock Exchange, and drew participation from educators, researchers (local and international), policy makers, representatives from the financial sector, and broad representation of both the national and international press. Financial Literacy experts discussed the implementation of the Financial Education Pilot Project and the results of the impact evaluation led by the World Bank.

Workshop participants included the president of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil (CVM, in its Portuguese acronym), the Chief Business Development Officer from BM&FBOVESPA; the World Bank Country Director for Brazil; a senior officer from Ministry of Education, and a representative from the Central Bank (all of these institutions are partners in the project). Speakers included representatives from the Russian Trust Fund for Financial Literacy, the OECD, the World Bank, education think tank CAEd (Center for Public Policy and Education Evaluation in its Portuguese acronym), the Roberto Marinho Foundation, independent local researchers, representatives of the Ministry of Education, and schools participating in the program.

The World Bank team presented the methodology and results of the impact assessment. In addition, educators from some of the schools that participated in the pilot shared their experiences implementing the project. Presentations ranged from student-made videos, to recorded teacher and student testimonies on the impact of the program, to business plans for a beauty salon. An award ceremony took place at the end of the event, where the best performing schools (teachers and students) were recognized and awarded various prizes.
Introduction and Context

The Brazilian national strategy for financial literacy (ENEF), and its pilot project

Navigating today’s financial markets can be a difficult task. Financial systems have grown in complexity and sophistication, increasing the need for improved financial planning skills. Consumers face an array of complex financial decisions regarding credit, savings, insurance, retirement, housing, and education decisions. In many cases, these increased demands for financial literacy outpace the degree of financial literacy in the population.

In Brazil, the need for improved financial education is particularly pressing. A recent survey conducted by the Instituto Data Popular in 2008 showed that 82% of Brazilian consumers were unaware of the interest rate when borrowing money, that overdue loan installments were mostly caused by poor financial management, and that saving rates are low, even among high-income families.

To improve the state of financial literacy in the population, the Brazilian Government began work in 2007 to draft a National Strategy for Financial Education (Estratégia Nacional de Educação Financeira, ENEF), a priority initiative with key partnership between the Central Bank of Brazil (Banco Central do Brasil, BACEN), the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission (Comissão de Valores Mobiliários, CVM), the Complementary Pensions Secretary (Superintendência Nacional de Previdência Complementar, SPC), and the Superintendency of Private Insurance (Superintendência de Seguros Privados, SUSEP)2. The goals of this national strategy are to: develop personal finance skills, stimulate savings, and broaden the use of financial products among Brazilians, thereby improving their financial well-being. Since personal finance is not taught systematically in the Brazilian school system, the Group for Pedagogical Support (GAP) was created in 2007 to define the best strategy to integrate financial education into the school curriculum. GAP consists of representatives from the Central Bank of Brazil, CVM, SPC, SUSEP, the Ministry of Education (MEC), the National Council of Education Secretariats (CONSED), and the National Union of Municipal Education Directors (UNDIME). Moreover, the financial education content and strategy for schools was developed in consultation with other key stakeholders, including educators and public education institutions (the Federal Center for Technology Education of Rio de Janeiro – Cefet/RJ – and Colégio Pedro II).

As a result of these efforts, a pilot program on teaching financial literacy to high school students was introduced in 2010 as part of the implementation of the ENEF. The financial literacy pilot program integrates financial education into the existing curricula, incorporating 72 case studies into Mathematics, Portuguese, Science, Geography and History classes. It was designed to be taught over three school semesters (1.5 years) and covers a broad range of topics, and reinforces previously learned concepts. The material is interactive and includes take-home exercises that the students complete with the participation of family members, such as household budgeting and planning.

GAP’s goal is to eventually offer a financial education curriculum to all Brazilian public high school students. However, the group decided to begin a pilot project with a smaller number of schools so that an impact evaluation of the pilot project could be conducted. Through the application of rigorous economic research methods it will be possible to identify the direct causal impact of financial education on student and household financial knowledge, financial attitudes, financial decision-making, and economic well-being. The results from this pilot can provide valuable insight into which aspects of the financial literacy curriculum are useful and which financial decisions it is affecting. These insights can then be used to improve the content and delivery of financial education programs as they are scaled-up to other parts of the country.

The Bank’s involvement through the impact evaluation of the pilot

During the design phase of the pilot project, CVM consulted with a World Bank mission team visiting Brazil about the Financial Literacy Pilot Project. The WB team identified some implementation issues and noted the lack of an impact evaluation (IE) of the program. A follow-up mission led by the World Bank’s Development Impact Evaluation Initiative (DIME) was subsequently organized and the discussions led to a request for Non-Lending Technical Assistance (NLTA) to design and conduct an impact evaluation of the pilot project. 

Summary of the Financial Literacy Impact Evaluation Project3

While a handful of financial education evaluations have been conducted in other countries, the Brazil study is unique. It is the first and only randomized evaluation of a financial education program in schools, and hence will provide unprecedented insights into whether these types of programs are effective with the school-aged population. Because it is implemented at the school level, it features much broader coverage of the target population, and provides more comprehensive and longer-term coverage of the financial education material than the more commonly implemented voluntary workshop-based financial education programs. Moreover, this study is one of the largest randomized evaluations in any country and on any target group – the study encompasses nearly 900 schools and 26,000 students across five Brazilian states: São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Ceará, Tocantins, Minas Gerais, as well as the Distrito Federal. Once the program is expanded, the goal is to reach 212,000 schools.

The impact of the financial literacy material is being evaluated through a randomized experiment at the school level. Some schools have been randomly selected to receive the financial education textbooks, accompanied by teacher training that explains the purpose, content, and application of the material. Other schools will not receive textbooks or teacher training during the pilot phase.

Schools were allocated to treatment and control groups through a stratified and matched randomization. The sample includes schools in urban and rural areas. Schools were first stratified by state and by whether the municipality in which the school is located has above or below the median number of financial institutions per capita. Then, within strata, schools were matched by the number of students and teachers in the high schools, drop-out rates, graduation rates, municipality GDP per capita and municipality savings per capita, forming pairs. Finally, the schools were randomized within pairs, such that one school in each pair is allocated to the treatment group and the other school is allocated to the control group. By comparing the treatment schools to control schools, the methodology allows for measuring impact along a causal chain of (i) how financial literacy affects knowledge, (ii) how that improved knowledge leads to better financial decisions, and (iii) how those better financial decisions improve household welfare.

To measure the impact of the program - knowledge change for students - the Bank has partnered with a leading research think tank, the Centro de Políticas Públicas e Avaliação da Educação (CAEd, in its Portuguese acronym). CAEd has utilized its experience and knowledge of the target population to develop a four-pronged approach to measure impact. Specifically, CAEd has developed four instruments to measure knowledge change among students: (i) a knowledge test that tries to isolate and identify the competencies related explicitly to financial knowledge, as opposed to students’ general academic skills and competencies; (ii) an attitudinal questionnaire; (iii) mental maps related to how students think about financial matters such as purchasing cell phone coverage, prepaid cards, and repayment plans4; and (iv) a socioeconomic questionnaire. These four questionnaires are supplemented with a fifth student behavior questionnaire developed by the World Bank team to establish baseline and follow-up of preferences towards financial decisions. All student questionnaires are being self-administered in schools in a classroom setting. These five instruments constitute the comprehensive “Survey”, and are referred to as such hereafter. CAEd has taken responsibility for implementing these surveys.

The implementation timeline for the first phase of the pilot project and the impact evaluation was the following:

Table 1 Pilot Project Implementation Timeline

Implementation Timeline

April 2010

Training of State Education Coordinators (Completed)

May – June 2010

Random Assignment of Schools to Treatment and Control Groups (Completed)

May – August 2010

Training of Teachers in the Treatment Group (Completed)

Early August 2010

Student and Parent Baseline Questionnaire (Completed)

Mid August 2010

Teachers start teaching the financial education material

November/December 2010

First Follow-up Survey (Completed)

Spring 2011

Analysis of Results from First Follow-up Survey (Completed)

June 2011

Final Report for First Phase Results Completed

Although the pilot project is currently only in the first stage of implementation, an analysis of the impact of this first phase has been done (see results presented in the next section). The first stage results are preliminary since treatment schools have implemented the financial education programs for only a few months (since August 2010), and have not had the opportunity to implement the financial literacy curriculum in its entirety. The results thus far are based on the first follow-up survey, which was conducted in December 2010. Therefore, the analysis is based on only four months of program implementation, and represents very short-term results. The plan is to continue this work in phase two, with a second follow-up survey in November 2011. Those results will be analyzed and reported in another workshop next fiscal year.

The number of students who completed the follow-up survey conducted in November and December of 2010 was smaller than the baseline survey (about 65 percent of the number of students at baseline). The lower response rates were mostly driven by São Paulo (56%) and the Distrito Federal (58%). Other states had much higher response rates: Tocantins (89%), Ceará (88%), Minas Gerais (84%) and Rio de Janeiro (76%). The education secretaries in the states with lower response rates assigned survey dates when presence was only mandatory for students who had to repeat exams. The lower response rates are thus driven by exogenous factors. In fact, the team looked at the impact on financial knowledge by state and found positive results in all states (including the ones that had high response rates). Nonetheless, the team will examine whether the response rates differ across the treatment and control groups and whether any school or individual characteristics are significantly correlated with the response rate.

In addition to the financial literacy program for students, a financial literacy program targeted to the students’ parents will also be implemented. This will allow for testing the marginal effect of providing parents financial education by randomly allocating financial literacy “treatment” to half the parents within schools where their children are learning financial literacy. Therefore, it will be possible to measure the causal impact of financial education in schools, and the marginal impact of financial education for parents.

A parent survey will be administered immediately after the financial literacy workshop. Additionally, parent surveys are being conducted at the same time as student baseline and follow-up surveys, in a format where students take the parent survey home, ask their parents to fill it out and return the completed survey to the schools. On the baseline survey, close to 90% of students returned completed parent surveys.

Summary of Main results presented at the Workshop

Student and Parent Baseline Characteristics

The baseline survey indicates that about 56% of respondent students are female, 51% have some form of income (from work or from parents) and about 37% are working. Additionally, 32% are beneficiaries of the Bolsa Família Program.

Among parents of students in the study, formal savings is not very common: only 44% of parents have savings accounts5. In contrast, most parents are borrowers: 89% of parents indicated that they have borrowed money from a bank, taken out a loan to buy real estate/vehicles, borrowed money from other people, or purchased items on installments.

Impact Results

The impact of the financial education program on the following dimensions of student outcomes has been measured: financial proficiency, financial autonomy and intention to save, actual saving and spending behavior, and participation in household finance6. Since the research methodology uses random assignment, a simple comparison is done of the averages between the treatment and control groups, and any difference between the two groups can be attributed to the financial education program. The fact that the treatment and control groups are the same before the intervention is illustrated by the fact that at baseline, average student and parent characteristics, as well as test scores, were the same across the control and treatment groups (see table 2 below). Therefore the control group is a valid comparison for the treatment group.

Table 2 Baseline Characteristics

*** indicates statistical significance at the 1% level, ** at the 5% level, and * at the 10% level

A. Financial proficiency

To examine the impact of the program on students’ financial knowledge, CAEd developed a test tailored to the program’s material and objectives. This test was administered at baseline and at follow-up in both the treatment and the control group. Based on this test, CAEd calculated the level of financial proficiency for each student, ranging from 0 to 100, where 100 is the highest possible score. This financial proficiency score comprises percentage of correct answers, with greater weight given to more difficult questions.

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