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Conceptualising financial literacy: an ethnographic study of school governors

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posted on 05.11.2010, 10:09 by Carolynne L.J. Mason
Financial literacy is perceived as important and yet what does the term financial literacy actually mean? An exploration of literature examining aspects of individuals' financial literacy in particular contexts found a conceptualisation to be absent despite the term being adopted widely. This study addressed this omission and sought a conceptualisation of financial literacy. A reflexive, ethnographic approach was adopted for this exploratory study which examined the experiences of school governors. The study explored a proposed model of financial literacy as a meaningmaking process. A conceptualisation of financial literacy as a sense-making process is offered latterly, where financial literacy is conceptualised as a process involving individuals constructing and making informed decisions with financial consequences. The aim of individuals taking these decisions is to achieve desired outcomes. The conceptualisation is necessarily offered tentatively as a result of the exploratory nature of the study. Acceptance of the conceptualisation offered requires serious revisions in the way financial literacy is currently understood. This thesis argues that financial literacy is a construct relevant to the social world which is characterised by equivocality and ambiguity. The governors in this study engaged in sense-making in order to make the environment sensible. This required governors to seek plausible solutions rather than accurate ones, although there was little evidence to support the view that they recognised this. Financial literacy has previously been concerned with accuracy, rather than plausibility. This thesis argues that it is time for a new era for financial literacy where financial literacy is conceptualised as a sense-making process seeking plausibility rather than accuracy in environments characterised by ambiguity and equivocality. The usefulness of the conceptualisation of financial literacy offered in this thesis is in need of ffirther exploration. The relationship between financial literacy and other terms, such as financial awareness and financial capability, was found to be poorly understood and in need of further clarification.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


© Carolynne Mason

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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