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PISA 2018 Financial literacy: Robust skills and responsible use of money among Finnish students

Ministry of Education and Culture 7.5.2020 14.01
Press release

The results of the PISA 2018 financial literacy assessments were published in 20 countries on 7 May 2020. With their average score of 537 points for the financial literacy assessment, Finnish young people were the second best together with Canada (532 points). The most financially literate youth were found in Estonia, where the average of 547 points was statistically significantly higher than the average of all other countries. The financial literacy assessment is an optional national assessment in the PISA survey. Finland participated in this assessment for the first time.

High variation in skills among Finnish youth, small differences between schools

Of all the participating countries, Finland had the highest percentage of top performers at performance level 5 (20% of students). In Estonia (19%) and Canada (17%), the share of top performers was almost the same (OECD average of 10%). At the same time, 2.4% of Finnish students fell below the lowest performance level of 1. Of the other highest performing countries, Estonia’s equivalent figure was a mere 0.7% (OECD average 4%).

In Finland, there is an even distribution in financial literacy between schools, and the differences between schools were the smallest in the entire assessment. At the same time, however, the variation within schools was the largest, and clearly stronger than in reading literacy, for example. In other words, both the weakest and the strongest financially literate were found at the same school. No regional or educational differences were observed. The average score in financial literacy skills of Finnish-speaking students was 538 points and that of Swedish-speaking students was 522 points.

Skills differentials between the genders small, student background impacts competence

The average score for Finnish girls was 540 points and 534 points for boys. The 6-point difference was not statistically significant. Altogether 21% of Finnish boys ranked at the top level (level 5). The equivalent percentage in Estonia was 20% and 19% in Canada (OECD average 13%). The corresponding percentage for girls was 19% in Finland, 18% in Estonia and 14% in Canada (OECD average 10%). Altogether 12% of Finnish boys and 8% of girls fell short of proficiency level 2. This difference was statistically significant.

The socio-economic background of students had the second largest impact on financial literacy in Finland among the reference countries. This was reflected in particular in the poor skills of students belonging to the lowest socio-economic quarter bracket and the strong skills of students belonging to the highest one.

Young people in Finland active and responsible

In Finland, 89% of 15-year-olds held a bank account of their own and 78% had their own bank or payment card. These were the highest percentages in the whole assessment. Young people's inclusion in financial systems was linked to better financial literacy. In Finland, this was manifest in particular in a stronger link in the assessment between owning a bank account and financial literacy. The ownership of a bank account and of a bank or payment card was linked to the socio-economic background of the student in all countries. In Finland, however, this link was weaker than the OECD average. On the other hand, significantly fewer Finnish immigrant students had a bank account and payment card than did immigrant students in OECD countries on average.

In financial matters, Finnish young people behaved roughly as responsibly as young people did in OECD countries on average. Responsible behaviour was also positively linked to financial literacy. With regard to consumer behaviour, the comparison of product prices was very common for Finnish young people and showed a somewhat stronger link with proficiency than the OECD average. Finnish young people expressed the greatest interest in monetary matters among the participating countries. Their readiness to make decisions on their own finances was high in international terms.

School education plays a significant role in financial literacy

A significantly higher percentage of Finnish students (71%) than the average of OECD students (50%) indicated that they obtained information about financial literacy from their teachers. In addition, Finland showed the strongest link between financial literacy and financial knowledge from teachers among the reference countries (23 points). In all other OECD countries, the link between financial literacy and financial knowledge from teachers was negative. Finnish students also reported that they have come across quite a lot of tasks related to financial literacy at school. In Finland, the link between financial tasks carried out in school and the students’ financial literacy was the strongest (17 points) in the whole assessment. It is worth noting that this link was also negative in all other OECD countries.

Financial literacy was strongly linked to reading literacy and numeracy, but it also played a role independent of other assessment domains. Finnish young people were more financially literate than could be expected on the basis of their skills in numeracy and reading literacy. One of the underlying reasons for this is that especially boys showed greater financial literacy than literacy in other assessment domains.

In Finland, financial skills are not taught as a separate subject in comprehensive school, but contents of financial skills can be found at least in the curricula of mathematics, home economics and social studies. The lessons in money matters learned at school played an important role in terms of producing financial literacy in Finland. The assessment supports the view that the contents in financial skills taught in Finland are successful, and this is very strongly linked with the financial literacy of students. The entire basic education of students who took part in the assessment was built on the 2004 curriculum, and the 2016 core curriculum did not have time to influence the educational contents of the students who took part in the assessment.

In the PISA 2018 survey, financial literacy was an optional, additional content area for the third time. In order to measure financial literacy, an additional sample was collected among 15-year-olds in the whole country. When the additional sample was combined with the basic sample, the assessment of financial literacy was obtained from 4,328 pupils who studied at 214 schools.


  • National Project Manager of Finland for PISA, Senior Researcher, Arto K. Ahonen, University of Jyväskylä, tel. +358 40 839 4209
  • Tommi Karjalainen, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Education and Culture, tel. +358 2953 30140

Link to report (only in Finnish)