Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders. Taking this maxim as part of its corporate social responsibility ethos, Bank Indonesia (BI) has embarked on an initiative to provide reading corners at educational institutions throughout Indonesia.
Launched in 2015, the BI Corner program is strengthening financial literacy by providing quality information on economics, as well as explaining BI’s role in managing the Indonesian economy. Efforts are focusing on universities, while early childhood education is being targeted through Bank Indonesia Reading & Storytelling Corners. Both programs are part of BI’s corporate social responsibility with the theme “Smart Indonesia”. Over the coming years, BI Corners will also be opened at selected high schools and entire education level throughout the country.
Indonesia has long suffered from poor financial literacy, as well as a low reading habit. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization ranks Indonesia as having the lowest reading habit in Southeast Asia. Only 1 out of every 1,000 citizens has an excellent reading habit.
Part of the problem is a lack of access to quality books and learning materials, due to inadequately stocked libraries, while some regions do not have sufficient bookstores. Other factors include specialist books being unaffordable for many people, and books that are too technical to attract readers.
BI therefore decided to develop the reading corners, which are unique physical spaces comprising well-stocked bookshelves, comfortable seating and multimedia technology. These attractive spaces enable people to learn of the strong link between reading and thinking, as they acquire knowledge that is relevant to their daily lives and financial success.
The designated corners are generally attached to existing campus libraries. Each BI Corner is equipped with eye-catching bookshelves, hundreds finance-related books in Indonesian and English, sofas, computer terminal and LED TV, and a collection of BI periodicals and reports.
Subjects covered by available books are too numerous to list individually here, but include banking, practical economics, development planning, accounting, auditing, taxation, Islamic finance, international humanitarian law, economic theory, business and marketing, management and human resources, natural resources, and inspirational biographies.
Less than half of Indonesia’s 250 million people have bank accounts – a situation that BI is taking measures to remedy through education programs.
“The new BI reading corner is popular with students,” says Endang Kusuma Dhani, the librarian at Jakarta’s Moestopo University. “The range of books enables them to broaden their skills and knowledge of finance.”
Financial literacy plays a crucial role in development and can help countries to avoid the worst symptoms of regional and global financial crises. For example, households with savings accounts and multiple income streams are likely to be more financially resilient during times of recession, high inflation and rising unemployment.
Households with low levels of financial literacy tend not to plan for the long-term, borrow at higher interest rates and have fewer assets. They are also at greater risk of falling victim to financial scams.
Instilling Values & Skills
The BI Reading & Storytelling Corners, which are being developed at early childhood learning centers, aim to stimulate the growth and development of infants by introducing them to reading, counting and creativity.
Parents have expressed gratitude for the books, which are designed for children aged three to six. This is the stage when infants develop physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing, so it is the right time to instill values and skills for their futures.
The provision of exciting books and puppets helps children to understand the concept of money and importance of saving. Active involvement of parents is encouraged to ensure they play an ongoing role in the learning process.
At BI Reading & Storytelling Corners, BI provides training to staff of early childhood education centers (PAUD). Through good storytelling, children and their parents will be encouraged to read more.
Results have been promising, showing that stories, especially fables, have stimulated the imagination and creativity of children, as well as planting strong moral values.
BI is building and strengthening engagement with stakeholders, enabling students to understand the role of BI and its contribution to Indonesians.
BI’s reading corners are sowing the seeds to put the future of Indonesia’s economy in good hands, so that all Indonesians will benefit.
(Written in order Bank Indonesia participation on The Global CSR Awards 2016 by PINNACLE – Gold medal for “Excellence in Provision of Literacy & Education Award )