By Husna Irfan

Financial literacy is an incredibly important set of skills that young adults are often expected to pick up naturally. Ironically, however, this is often without any formal instruction or knowledge of personal finance management or budgeting. As an undergraduate university student who is on the cusp of entering the job market, I am overwhelmed by the weight of what it really is to be an “independent adult.” I almost feel cheated by the various educational systems which stewarded my intellectual growth but did not prepare me for the next leg of the journey.

Unfortunately, this experience has not been unique to me. In the United Arab Emirates generally, financial literacy is lacking among school and university students, who are typically dependent on their parents to manage their expenses. This not only leads them to underestimate the complexities of handling finances, but can also lead to the neglect of other seemingly simple matters, such as knowing how to care for one’s home or self without support. This inexperience with handling financial responsibilities and decision-making can impede young people’s busy lives upon entry into the labor market. Further consequences may include increased debt or poor financial decisions that limit one’s ability to lead a comfortable and fulfilling life.

When preparing students for adulthood, education institutions should go beyond imparting academic knowledge on youth. We need to know how to balance everything that comes outside work—household management, car maintenance, basic nutrition, health insurance, mental health—the list is endless. While some acquire these skills through other means or have a natural aptitude for them, this does not apply to everyone. Current curricula often focus more on academic subjects and career development, neglecting essential life skills like financial literacy. It is often presumed that young adults will pick up these skills themselves through independent research or by relying on help from family or friends, and therefore do not need this support from educational bodies. While this is true for some, others have responsibilities that hinder their process of slowly learning how to do “adult” things. In addition, not everyone has support at home or someone to turn to for help with such matters.

Integrating financial literacy modules into the curriculum, conducting workshops, or organizing mentorship programs are some of the ways in which education institutions can start to support youths’ acquisition of life skills. A comprehensive education curriculum that includes these factors can help youth feel more prepared to depend on themselves. For example, financial literacy or “life skills” classes can be offered separately to students regardless of whether the student follows American, British, Arab, Indian or other curricula.

In sum, seemingly trivial things can cause stress to build up over time, and learning about financial literacy or home economics can help students achieve greater peace of mind—especially as they begin to search for jobs and work full-time. I believe that education systems should not only find ways to enrich a student's academic life, but enhance their life outside of it. It is only then that students will know how to live a life where they are truly thriving instead of merely existing.


Husna Irfan is currently a senior pursuing a B.A. in International Studies at the American University of Sharjah. She is also a Research Intern with the Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research. Providing support with the organization of the upcoming GCES Conference, Husna is passionate about conducting research on issues of governance and social importance in the Gulf and South Asia. 

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