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Banking for children, banking on children

(Article published in the Apr 18, 2007 issue of Manila Standard Today)    

It was Evelyn C.  Avila, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) representative to the task force that prepared for the 2007 report on “General Principles for International remittance services” for the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems of the Bank of International Settlements and The World Bank, who informed us last Thursday (12 April 2007) that something significant occurred that morning.

Making small talk while waiting for the rest of the Board of Directors of the Association of Private Remittance Companies (APPRISE) to walk in for their monthly meeting, Eve told APPRISE president Ms. Jessica Palmiano that the BSP, the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Ateneo De Manila University-Economic Policy Reform and Advocacy (Ateneo-EPRA) earlier in the morning signed a Memorandun of Agreement to bring banking to school children.

The general objective of the three institutions is “to work together in providing financial and economic literacy to elementary teachers and integrating the concept of  ‘savings’ in the DepEd’s elementary education curriculum.  A similar program, Eve informs APPRISE, could very well be developed to hook the private remittance companies with BSP’s efforts to enhance the savings and investment consciousness of recipients of OFW remittances. 

The need to address elementary school children was highlighted by the fact that less than 5% of the youth regularly save money.  It is thus crucial that, even at this early stage, some countervailing program to combat the culture of spending, be directed at the young.  Past efforts along those lines were recently validated by the successful project known as “Tulong Barya Para sa Eskwela.”  That program, according to BSP Governor Say Tetangco, generated more than Php 6.5 million in cash donations for public elementary schools and savings of more than Php 8 million for the BSP.

The April 12 MOA, which will seek to instill among school children the positive Filipino values of “pagkamasinop, pagkamatipid, pag-iimpok, and pagkakaisa”, will put on stream two components of the project.  The first is to develop for the elementary school teachers teaching guides that will inform them about basic financial and economic concepts relating to savings.  The second is to provide them with training on how to integrate these concepts in the curriculum of primary school children.

The teaching guides are the expected output of a ten-day writeshop which is to be attended by selected DepEd teachers.  They will undergo a combination of lectures and discussions of the fundamentals of money and banking on such topics as the role of savings in development, the financial system of the country, elements of personal finance, history of the monetary system and the Bangko Sentral, and the structures for the protection of small savers.  Then, these will be followed by sessions by the participants actually writing up the training guides, initial peer critiquing, and then finalization of both form and content.

After the teachers’ guides are finalized, training sessions will be conducted to introduce to teachers the guides which were generated by the writeshop.  The training will be conducted by the DepEd with logistical support from the BSP. 

At the end of the day, banking concepts will be taught in Character Education and in Sibika at Kultura given to those in Grades 1 to  Grade 3, and in Character Education and in Heographiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika to those in Grades 4 to 6.

What are the chances of this initiative of succeeding? 

I can only look to the experience, to date, of Multiple Intelligence International School Foundation, Inc., a small school presently located at 4 Escaler Street, Loyola Heights, Q.C.  If you are familiar with the area of the Ateneo and Miriam, it is on the street parallel to Katipunan Road, behind ShoppersVille and the BPI branch.

The school was founded and is operated on the Theory of Multiple Intelligences formulated by Harvard University’s Howard Gardner. Speaking of his impressions of the school during his first and, as of now, his only visit to the Philippines in February 2005, Gardner, in his book, Multiple Intelligences: New Horizons, wrote: “at the M.I. International School Foundation in the Philippines, I saw impressive integration of MI ideas under a rubric of education for understanding.”

What the school did, for its primary school students, was to try to draw out (which is really what the latin word educat, the root of the English education means) from its young students the entrepreneurial spirit.  Says Joy Abaquin who studied under Gardner: “The entreprenueurship program is taught within mathematics.  And it was highlighted in the Kids Bazaar held last year wherein the children created a range of products that they had a business plan for.  The kinds and their teachers decided on the different roles each one was to play.  They respected each other for the roles they played.”

But it was entreprenueurship that was not for self but for others.  Miguel, a grade 3 student, during the bazaar had a can of coins in his hand.  He went around asking donations from his classmates and their parents for his can.  When the can was filled up, he gave the what he was able to collect to Bahay Mapagmahal, one of the school’s beneficiaries for the bazaar.

          There is no reason why the same spirit cannot be replicated elsewhere in the country’s primary schools.  With all the financial strength of the BSP, the might and mien of the DepEd, and the animo of the Ateneo EPRA, banking can be brought to the kids even as all of us remain confident banking on our kids.