How you teach or what you teach: Aflatoun's approach to financial capability - Part I


Financial education programmes are often seen as one homogenous group –which allows us to presume that we can ask the big question: ‘does it work?’ 

In practice, programmes take on remarkably different forms, incorporating distinct pedagogic approaches and curriculum content that are delivered in a diverse range of contexts.  

In this post, we outline how Aflatoun developed its programme and how our experiences informed this transformation.  It will show that financial education is about more than just curriculum but about framing the education experience in a way that facilitates children participation and engagement.

The Aflatoun programme was started in Mumbai 1991 by Jeroo Billlimoria, a globally recognized social entrepreneur and current Director of Child and Youth Finance International, who brought children together from different backgrounds to foster social understanding through education. As the programme grew from Mumbai to the rural parts of Maharashtra, its social messages were no longer as effective with the new audience.  In order to build relevance, the programme began experimenting with savings groups with children and found that this became its most popular element.

Reader’s who are parents will know that their children have a special interest in money. They see it used and are fascinated by its seemingly magical properties.  Parent’s struggle with how best to introduce financial concepts to their children as this task is related to the values that they wish to impart.   The Aflatoun programme touches on this very challenge. It channels financial interest with practical activities and imparts values and self awareness through its educational components. This is what we call ‘’balanced social and financial education’’, which is the hallmark of the Aflatoun programme.

From this base, the programme has grown to reach more than two million children in over 100 countries. This expansion has taught us many lessons on how to best impart financial skills. Most importantly, we have learnt that how you teach is as important as the underlying curriculum material.

First, activities are often the best way to impart knowledge. A lot of initial financial education programmes provided children and young people with a broad array of information and concepts that they were to use later their life.  Many of these were not relevant at that age appropriate and soon forgotten. By providing tangible activities that allow children to actively participate in the financial world -whether it is by managing their own savings group or starting a small enterprise in their school- children are better able to grasp the underlying concepts.

Second, financial education has to be taught differently. Around the world, children are exposed to rote learning, being lectured to and repeating on demand. Aflatoun has incorporated child centred learning methodologies into all of its curriculum and training.  By putting children at the centre of their own education and letting children work together, information is best processed. In doing so, learning becomes social financial challenges are puzzles that can be solved.

Third, financial education services have to be context specific to be effective. We provide a flexible curriculum to our partners who adapt or modify it to their needs. They work in varying contexts from jails, urban slums to rural areas. While a focus on fidelity allows for evaluative judgment, it does not take into account how important local context is in the successful implementation and acceptance of   a programme.

As we have seen, many challenges around delivering effective financial education are about the process as much as the content. People becoming financially capable and there are influences in their lives –familial, cultural, and social- that push them to be so.  Aflatoun has developed a methodology that it hopes compliments and supports this positive skill development and builds confidence in making good financial choices.