During the pandemic, it has become more evident than ever that life skills are critical to the survival of individuals and societies. For children too, academic knowledge must be augmented with insightful lessons about how the real world functions, how money is made, spent, saved, invested, how industries and institutions work.
Educator Rajesh Bhatia who runs the TreeHouse chain of virtual playschools & schools believes that the new age education model must teach children financial literacy for a well-managed future. He says, ”Children have curious minds that want to explore the physical, digital, and conceptual worlds but we often bind them to books and rote learning. Research reveals that when children are introduced to ‘grown-up’ concepts like how to run a house, manage a business, ideate a better future, they come up with fresh perspectives with surprising maturity.”
Money as a concept, he believes, is something that children remain oblivious to till they start studying it as a subject. Says Rajesh, “Young children observe how every single thing, be it toys or chocolates, costs money. But they don’t know how money is made. Even when students study economics or the world of finance, they don’t really learn how to apply that knowledge to real life. Why can’t this gap between knowledge and application be bridged?”
This is why TreeHouse is now offering life skills through online courses to students between 11-18 years of age and says Rajesh, “A financial education course will teach kids about saving money, financial transactions, investments, e-commerce entrepreneurship, and a lot more. This programme will also be open for people above 20 years of age and anyone who wants to know about the basics of commerce, stock market, the conundrum of policies, etc.”
By the time this generation of children grows up, says Rajesh, the financial world would have undergone a sea change. He explains, “The pandemic has forced financial institutions to speedily digitise their processes. Money is increasingly turning digital and it is imperative that children are prepared to deal with technology-driven businesses and financial systems when they become adults. Parents are often reluctant to talk about finance and money to their children but it is good to inculcate a healthy attitude towards such an intrinsic part of life. This could, in turn, help them plan their future better when they start earning.”
The intangible lessons are necessary too, Rajesh says and he adds, “Yes, we must teach children to be kind, empathetic, and socially responsible. Comprehensive sex education and financial education, I feel are equally important because they teach responsibility and accountability at a very young age and demystify subjects that the children are exposed to but know little about. We, in India, can reinvent the educational wheel instead of looking at the West for pointers and empower our children to be future-ready, right now.”
He hopes that TreeHouse, by imparting life skills, will inspire students to think like leaders at a young age, embrace entrepreneurship and not just seek employment in time but provide it.
Rajesh concludes, “The National Centre for Financial Education in 2019 conducted a survey and found that only 27 percent of Indians are financially literate. This is alarming, considering that India has a massive youth population. We must hence, start early to skill our youth, empower them and make them financially independent.”
TreeHouse has already started virtual livelihood education courses for Class 6 to Class 9 students in banking, law, e-commerce, aviation, and business administration and is the first mover in this space of virtual vocational learning.