MANILA, Philippines – For the millennial mayor of Pasig, Vico Sotto, meeting voters who need help because they are broke, in debt or unable to pay their bills has become an almost daily reality. There are sellers in the market, for example, who earn well by selling their wares and yet are left up to their necks in debt to the loan sharks.
“Sometimes when I sit down and talk to them, I realize that they shouldn’t have been in this situation if only they were managing their finances properly; if only they had the discipline to save; if only they budget and write down how much they spend, what their income and what they can spend on other things, ”Sotto said in a recent interview with the Inquirer.
“If they were just doing the basic things that are in the program’s workbook – what they taught the kids, that wouldn’t have happened. “
Sotto was referring to the Peso Smart financial literacy program offered by global life insurer Manulife at two public primary schools in Pasig. This morning of June 16, Sotto attended the virtual graduation ceremony of over 100 public elementary school students who completed the “Peso Smart x RecoveREADS” distance learning program – the first financial literacy program of Pasig City specially designed for children.
The first group of graduates came from Francisco Legaspi Memorial School and Buting Elementary School. The students had received Peso Smart learning kits that included a module-based activity journal that teaches children the basics of saving, budgeting and investing. The kits also included Manulife’s Peso Smart story books “Manny and Liv” and “Yaman Bayan”, which aim to make learning smart financial habits more fun, as well as promoting meaningful family interactions while parents teach their children at home. The distance learning program with Pasig was launched in August of last year and ran for around 10 months.
“The program starts with very basic concepts, like the history of money – so there is a bit of financial history. Then we get them to know how to make money. We teach them how to save, how to budget, what debt is, what credit means, then how to invest, and the different ways to protect themselves financially, so both investing and insurance. These are the concepts that are part of the module. So it’s pretty comprehensive but presented in a very, very basic way that is actually also fun for the kids to understand, ”said Melissa Henson, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Manulife Philippines.
Sotto himself had learned financial literacy early on, thanks to the foresight of his mother, actress Coney Reyes. “I think it’s something my mom did well,” he said.
“The role of financial literacy is critical because it instills financial discipline to help you make informed decisions, lead better lives, and even thrive in times of crisis. So we have to start teaching kids smart financial habits early, because it makes a big difference in the kind of future they build, ”said Sotto.
“For this particular program, I think it’s fair that we target children, so once they have their own jobs, their own businesses, they’ll be able to manage their finances well,” he said. declared.
Opportunity in times of crisis
Peso Smart began in 2017 as a weekly in-person classroom program, where Manulife employees volunteered to teach public school students the value of good financial habits. Since then, Manulife has produced materials for children aged 10 to 11 or those in grades 5 and 6.
“But we also created story books, which are like comics. These are books which are also based on the concepts of Peso Smart, but which are so much simpler and can be read to the youngest. Our Peso Smart kids from Pasig also received these storybooks, but we’ve read them to kids around the age of five to seven and these comics resonate with that age group as well, ”Henson said.
The coronavirus pandemic gave Manulife the opportunity to evolve the program to support young students, even while they were studying from home. Manulife has partnered with the Corazon Sanchez Atayde Memorial Foundation (CSAMF) to launch Peso Smart x RecoveREADS in Pasig with support from the local government.
CSAMF volunteers and teachers at Francisco Legaspi Memorial School and Buting Elementary School used Manulife’s storybooks and Peso Smart modules as tools to help young students develop good financial habits.
“The Peso Smart Financial Literacy Modules have really enriched our existing RecoveREADS program as they add to our wealth of learning materials so that we can help more children in marginalized communities bridge the learning gap and become more financially savvy by applying basic math and reading skills. ”Said Margarita Atayde, Executive Director of CSAMF.
In addition to working with elementary school students in Pasig, Manulife had also worked with De La Salle University (DLSU). A version of the online learning program was designed for college or university students.
“So we continue to evolve the curriculum, to find new schools that we can partner with to bring this to their students, not only at the elementary level, but also at different stages of their learning journey,” Henson said. .
While some may think that shifting this financial literacy program into distance learning mode may not be ideal, but Henson said the upside was that parents were heavily involved in the journey. student learning.
“A lot of the activities that we have incorporated into the program, their workbooks and modules actually involve the family. So they looked at family budgets. They study their family income. They study their family expenses. They work with their parents to budget and I think as a result of that when we talk to parents we also hear from them that they also learned, ”she said.
At the graduation ceremony, the mother of one of the students explained that since taking the Peso Smart program, her daughter has been watching her diligently. Whenever she bought something, her daughter would ask her if it was a need or a desire and asked her to justify if she should buy it.
As such, Henson said that the main learnings in the program reverberate through the family precisely because the students are at home while they are on the program and the project involves studying their family’s finances and working. with their parents to find out how they can save a little. more with the family.
As Pasig has 28 public elementary schools under the Ministry of Education, Sotto hopes that after this pilot project in two schools, the program could be extended to more schools in the city.
“The subject of money is sometimes, or generally, in our culture, [something] we don’t really teach kids. So this is a very good program to start doing. And I hope we can expand the program in the future, because I saw that the children really learned a lot. Even according to students’ testimonies earlier, these are lifelong skills and knowledge that they can take with them until they get older, ”said Sotto.
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