By Anisha Madhukar
Money is changing its form, shape, and feel as has been the case over the centuries. The concept of money has evolved and will continue to be so as humankind finds new ways to interact in its social and economic space. The era of physical currency, that is Cash, is ending even in low and middle-income countries. The digital currency’s era is emerging and changing the landscape of banking and financial institutions. It has revolutionised money and payment systems. We can undertake peer-to-peer transactions instantaneously- redefining how we interact and integrate with economic systems and, subsequently, how user data generated due to this transaction feed into the economic and financial systems.
We can see the emergence of digital money in various contexts. Also, the presence of thousands of fiat cryptocurrencies maintained on blockchain fundamentally changes our understanding of money – how we perceive it and how we engage with it.
As we understood, the traditional functions of money were as a medium of exchange, store of value, and unit of account, prevailing in the currency in use. Whereas, we may see digital currencies specialise in one or the other primary functions of money – either as a medium of exchange or a store of value. Secondly, digital currency issuers may undertake ‘product differentiation’ by bundling monetary functions with data gathering and social networking services. This may lead to Digital Currency Areas (DCAs) linking digital currency usage to particular digital networks, rather than specific countries (as written by Eshwar Prasad in his book Future of Money – How the digital revolution is transforming currencies and finance). This may make some advanced economies vulnerable to ‘digital dollarisation’ in which the digital platform currency may supplant the national currency of another developed nation. This will lead to a distinction between private and public money, which will dilute traditional banking provisions of credit and the transmission of monetary policy. To retain this monetary independence, Central Banks’ of most economies are contemplating about Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), including India.
Given this complete paradigm shift in how we understand money, progressive school systems should re-calibrate their understanding of the subject of Economics and introduce the subject from grade six onwards and teach the young minds to negotiate with the changing landscape of the subject. Though lately, there has been a focus on introducing Financial Literacy from the middle years, I see a considerable gap that needs to be addressed.
As a practitioner of the subject, young minds join the bandwagon for earning a quick buck by crypto mining and the charm does not seem to end. Only some of our young minds in the urban progressive schooling system, are able to access the content in the internet to know about cryptocurrency, given their privileged background, without appreciating the pitfalls and complete understanding of the space. However, as school systems, we have yet to do much to engage students in the conversation where they understand these concepts before engaging in these activities.
My concern stems from the fact that the financial and economic landscape is evolving quickly. However, more needs to be done to teach young minds about the new developments and systems they are engaging in for daily transactions. The first step to address this gap should be to educate the educator in the K -12 space in India. There are few training modules which have been prepared and given in the National Curriculum websites and occasionally the national curriculum does conduct these trainings. However, the current interventions will bear any relevance in the ground level only if the learnings are integrated with the assessment framework. The national curriculum in collaboration with NSE (National Stock Exchange) has provided resources which can be a good place to begin with and the facilitators can then add the latest developments (a lot of content is available on the internet) to engage the students.
Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from various world-famous universities that includes articles, videos, and interactive games can be referred to construct a similar learning module for high school students and adults.
Notwithstanding these interventions, I find a lack of a structured blueprint to address this gap as an area of concern. Or even if there is one, there is lack of execution in the classroom, since the facilitators are inadequately equipped to address these topics.
For Example, in the national curriculum, the subject of Economics is taught through the lens of development from grade nine – the lesson titled The Village of Palampur. However, how many of our facilitators try to grapple with the question that how has the village economy changed in India due to the emergence of payment platforms? Or how has the emergence of digital payment systems impacted the village economy, or physical cash still a primary mode of transaction in rural India? The chapter on Money and Credit in grade 10 should also be revised and re-written to incorporate the changes happening in the financial space.
The proliferation of such digital technological changes will inevitably widen access to an array of financial services and innovations. However, this will also lead to the risk of the concentration of economic and financial power in the hands of a few big private entity players and governments to intrude into private individuals’ personal and financial lives. Are we equipping our students with adequate knowledge to understand and appreciate these changes to navigate the future effectively – a question that needs to be addressed sooner than later.
The author of this article is head, Department of Business and Economics, Shiv Nadar School, Noida. Views expressed are personal.
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