I was reading through posts and discussions in the #ukedchat corner of the Internetverse early today, and stumbled upon this detailed lesson plan for the Illegal Money Lending Team (sounds like it was taken straight out of a superhero comic, henceforth called the IMLT here) in the UK aimed at raising youth awareness of safer lending practices. One of the first lessons focused on the dangers of borrowing from loan sharks.
As a teacher, I was thrilled by the lengths that the IMLT took in promoting financial literacy among the youth. For me, it spoke tons about the educational philosophy that underpinned the material, which are parallel to my own beliefs about education. First, it was hinged on the idea of education as a process and means of developing independent and self-reliant citizens (which includes being safe and healthy). Second, it was promoting classroom learning that was relevant to students’ lives and responsive to the needs of the times. Amid an atmosphere of recurrent financial crisis among the world’s leading economies where ballooning student debt is a reality, it’s easy enough to understand why financial literacy among their youth has become important.
At the same time, I could also see its relevance in the classrooms of developing countries (or the third world, or whatever euphemistic label we go by these days) where microfinance knowledge is being courted as a solution to ending intergenerational poverty. One can even say that financial literacy is an even more pressing need in developing countries due to the larger percentage of the population at or below the poverty line. People are more vulnerable to unfair lending such as the practice of 5/6 where we are.
I can imagine some people dismissing the necessity of advocating for financial literacy in the classroom, arguing that it is more of a parental responsibility than an academic one. However, reflecting on my own upbringing as well as that of peers, I’ve seen that some parents themselves don’t have sound financial habits, from drawing up a budget to keeping savings, much less having investments. Also, some Filipino parents (if not most) tend to feel uncomfortable about discussing “money matters” with their children. These considered, I really think financial literacy should be taken up in our schools. The Philippine Stock Exchange has taken a step in this direction by organizing financial literacy seminars for college students and teachers during its Academe Week. I attended a seminar for college students a couple of years ago, though I wish I had taken the seminar for teachers. But other than investment options, we ought to take a leaf from the IMLT and promote awareness of safe and unsafe lending. In fact, we ought to begin by teaching students how to draw up a budget and grow their savings not only in high school, but even and perhaps more importantly, in the early grades.