On a chilly morning of January this year, 1000 kids of Kozhikode-based Rani Public School travelled 65 km just to appear for National Financial Literacy Assessment Test (NFLAT) conducted by National Institute of Securities Market (NISM). Among 2000 schools participating in the test, this school had the biggest turnout.
The kids’ motivation was their principal, Geetha Laxmi Sathyanathan. Having spent 14 years in the school and another 5 years with her own kids, she believes that things come too easily for kids. “There is hardly any effort to understand the value of money. That’s why I wanted my students to get a basic understanding about money concepts through this test” she says. Students approach her to convince their parents for spending money on trips and parents complain to her about too many demands from kids.
As a parent, Geetha Laxmi used to face a similar disconnect at home when her 17 year old daughter Gayatri demanded expensive things or when her 19 year old son Abhishek asked for a laptop. She recalls a day when her daughter Gayatri insisted on buying an expensive dress. “You will not like to wear the same thing for next party and you will outgrow it soon. Do you still want it” the mom asked. As the daughter was persistent in her demand, the mother bought it for her. Few months later, Gayatri could hardly fit into the dress and realized that her mom was right and thereafter she became cautious of spending money.
So for this Onam celebration, when this mom asked her daughter if she wanted a saree worth Rs 3000 or Rs 1000, the daughter didn’t need any convincing. She settled for a cheaper saree. When the family planned to buy a new car, it was the 19 year old Abhishek who suggested a lower model of the car as he knew that her sister’s school fees will go up next year. “I am happy that my years of training has made them conscious of spending money in someway” says Geetha Laxmi, on the eve of teachers’ day.
She attributes this learning to the kids’ grandmoms as well. When grandmoms narrate stories of how they went to school with just one pen in pocket, it helped kids get a perspective about a needs (one pen) and wants (2-3 pens)
For 3000 odd students in her school, the principal feels she has a long road to travel. “Value of money can’t be imparted in a classroom only. Its a constant process whereby kids develop logical reasoning, basic understanding of economics and commerce” she says. Apart from increasing logical thinking exercises in the curriculum, her school plans to hold lectures from successful people whom kids idolize.
Finally this principal and the money savvy mom believes that we can overcome the disconnect with kids by being transparent about the family finances. If you can’t afford to buy them something let them know. If you can afford it but you think they don’t need it, tell them “I can afford to buy but we don’t really need it” or give them a choice to buy something else which is more useful.