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Author: Chitra Iyer
Published on:
September 30, 2022

3 Kinds of Literacy They Don't Teach At School (But Kids Must Know)

Aside from textbook literacy, there are other things we should have learned at school - foremost among them is financial literacy. I feel my life would have been much more powerful if I had this awareness at a younger age. By exposing my children to these 3 kinds of literacy at an early age in practical ways, they become a part of life instead of being something entirely out of reach.
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Civic & Legal Literacy

Our schools do a lot to instill ‘moral’ science, civics, and whatnot into our kids. But let's face it - how much civics do you remember from school? 

Pop quiz: what is the difference between the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha? 

  • What does ‘republic’ really mean (aside from a holiday on the 26th of January)? 
  • What is our electoral system all about? 
  • What does a governor really do? 
  • Can you be arrested without a warrant? 
  • Does a police station HAVE to register your FIR no matter what? In what language? 
  • Who has the right to summon you to a police station and when? 
  • What are the real rules around fining you for a traffic violation? 
  • Does a traffic cop have the right to take away your license? 
  • What does an FIR entitle you to in a court of law? 
  • What's the process of informing the government about lost documents? 
  • What does a municipal councilor do and what rights do you have to discuss your problems with them? Who can you call to fix potholes? 

Unfortunately, both my husband and I are woefully unaware of many of the answers, and several friends we asked were too.

What I plan to do differently with my kids

We are starting with an in-depth exploration of our constitution with lots of charged discussions, open-minded debate, and questioning of all the items we read in the constitution, including what it means to be a citizen. 

We will speak to lawyers and lawmakers we know of in our network, and maybe try and get the local DC to see us and talk to the children about what they do. Next on our list is understanding the common laws of the Indian penal code that apply to our day-to-day life as a citizen.

Financial Literacy

This is a big one. All my life - until now - I have lived in FEAR of money. Honestly, I wanted to avoid any thought, conversation, or action on money as far as possible. I was happy if the money came out of the ATM when my card went in. I was happy if my bank balance got reset on the 30th of each month when the salary came in. And after 15 years of earning a salary, guess what? I have NOTHING to show for it. Zilch. I relied on hocus-pocus LIC agents and investment consultants who did nothing for me. I made poorly-considered decisions about investments if at all I pushed myself to think about them at all. 

But all that changed during the pandemic. This may sound really silly and basic to a lot of you more sensible folk out there, but my parents never taught me anything about financial literacy. Probably because they themselves did not know anything beyond “be grateful for your salary, save a little each month, live within your means, and always be afraid of being broke!”

This fear-filled relationship with money was my story till I lost a ton of money between the demonetization and pandemic, despite having a ‘professional’ financial manager handling my investments. A ton of my hard-earned money went up in smoke, as did the dreams built on those investments. 

That's when I decided that it was time to take this MONEY bull by its horns and become financially literate once and for all. 

What I plan to do differently with my kids 

  • We started with Youtube videos about basic financial literacy concepts like what are assets, investments, liabilities, compound interest, time value of money, inflation, and expenditure. 
  • I opened kid bank accounts for the kids and now we spend time exploring how to operate them.
  • We split their allowance into 4 sections: investments, goal-based savings (things they want to buy), sharing/charity/gifting, and fun spending.
  • We started a Zerodha account and play with small investments in the share and equity market.
  • We talk about money because we don't want our kids to fear money but to use it smartly like a tool, and understand it as a means to an end, not an end in itself. 

Environmental Literacy

Not everything about growing up middle-class in the 80’s was bad. Mom and dad were loathe to throw away a single plastic bag, container, or wrapping paper. And somehow we inherited that sense of frugality - but when liberalization happened and Kurkure and Pepsi bottles took over the nation (in the 90’s) something happened to that generation. Suddenly, it was cool to throw things away. 

What I plan to do differently with my kids

Sensible consumption, minimalism, and waste management need to be talked about as a family. Kids in schools are only taught to put trash in bins - but they must also think about where it goes beyond the bin. We try to discuss and and follow the REDUCE, REUSE, and RECYCLE principles in all our purchases, as much as possible. We also discuss changing weather patters, what the climate crisis means and listen to podcasts and watch YouTube videos to better understand what it means for us. During our weekly family reflection, we have added a mandatory ‘environmental impact’ item where we each talk about one small thing we did to help  - be it brushing in just one mug of water, or helping a bee out of a puddle.

So, these are the 3 kinds of literacy we are going to be working on this year! What about you? 

PS-  I’ll write a more detailed post about our financial literacy adventure soon! 

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