New Zealand students' understanding of finance is linked to whether they are rich or poor, which is creating a ''concerning'' disparity, an OCED report suggests.
Financial literacy tests carried out by the Programme for International Student Assessment showed New Zealand has a major gap between students who scored well in financial literacy, and those at the other end who had very little understanding of managing money.
The report compared New Zealand 15-year-olds to those from other OECD countries.
The main factor in results was students’ socio-economic background, Massey University's Dr Pushpa Wood said.
Wood – who helped collect the results – said those who had a higher socio-economic status tended to perform better, while those who were disadvantaged did a lot worse.
The level of disparity was ''deeply concerning'', she said.
''We must encourage some innovative, targeted programmes and delivery methods if we are to break the poverty cycle,'' she said. Results showed more than a quarter of Maori and 44 per cent of Pasifika students scored at the lowest level in the PISA rankings.
Only 10 per cent of Asian and Pakeha students scored in that low rung, the report showed.
At the other end of the spectrum, 25 per cent of Asian and 23 per cent of Pakeha students showed advanced levels of financial literacy, compared with only seven per cent of Maori and four per cent of Pasifika students.
Wood said the results confirmed theories on research and money management programmes.
She said it would serve as a basis for improving teaching programmes.
''We need more resources and teaching programmes targeting low-income families and Maori and Pasifika communities.''
The centre is due to bring together key stakeholders in a fortnight to discuss how to address the level of disparity.
On a positive note New Zealand had a significantly higher proportion of students scoring at the highest level – 19 per cent compared to the OECD average of 10 per cent.
Retirement Commissioner Diane Maxwell has welcomed the results.
She said it gave clear insights into where improvements were needed.
"Broadly New Zealand is tracking well on financial literacy levels for the 15-year-olds tested by PISA, with competencies above many of our OECD counterparts. However, it identifies that Maori and Pacific are over-represented in the group with the lowest levels of financial literacy. It also highlights a difference between boys and girls in understanding financial fundamentals."
She added: "Financial literacy is an essential life skill and embedding it in the school curriculum makes absolute sense. We want young people to leave school equipped to make good decisions about money from an early age."