Consumer Education:Content, principles andperspectivesHAROKOPIOUNIVERSITYGREECE“Training teachers in developing consumer awareness among children”Project 517562-LLP-1-2011-1-GR-COMENIUS-CMPwww.tracon-project.eu
“Consumer education is concerned with the skills, attitudes,knowledge and understanding necessary to become an effectiveconsumer. It is recognized that this form of education needs tobe provided at all life stages to empower young through toolder consumers to enable them to lead confident, healthy,independent lives.” (Brennan & Ritters, 2004, p. 98). Consumer education “sets out to change behavior, strengthenresponsibility, motivate to participate and to empower theconsumer” (Brennan & Ritters, 2004, p. 104). “The aim of formal consumer education may be described aseducating for critical consumer awareness and actioncompetence” (Benn, 2004, p. 108).[Department of Trade and Industry (2003). Consumer and Competition Policy DirectorateWebsite. http://www.dti.gov.uk/ccp/topics1/advice.htm as cited by Brennan & Ritters, 2004, p. 98]
To be a consumer deals among others with…The role of Media in consumptionbehaviourSafetyMarketing & money management Consumer rightsServices and Telecommunication Sustainable consumptionFood labeling FamilyFood & health
This paper discusses the role of school in the planning of anddeveloping consumer education.The main points raised are as follows: “Until now most research has been aimed primarily at gaining anunderstanding of how consumers act and react for the benefit of producers orsociety. Recently children and young people have been put on the researchagenda … in their roles as consumers” (p. 169). “Despite the emphasis nowadays being on the consumer and his/herconsumption behaviour, it can be postulated that we are also, to a certaindegree, producers. We are not just passive consumers but, as we consume weact, react and interact. How, why and when we carry out these actions dependson who we are, our needs and attitudes towards consumption and action andour skills or abilities to „produce‟ “(p. 170).
According to Benn (2002) modern societies are characterized bythree key paradigms in relation to consumer behaviour:1. The consumer-regulated society paradigm in which the central figure isthe consumer “who chooses and thereby determines the market.” (pp.170-171).2. The power in the hands-of-producers paradigm in which the producersare “superior and decide what we can buy and how to consume.” (p.171).3. “The third paradigm says that neither of the two parties may putthemselves forward as superior and prudent.” (p. 171). … the individual “acts as consumer outside the home in society,at the market, and acts as producer and/or consumer within thehome. This double perspective is also essential for consumereducation.” (p. 171).
“Consumer education may … be introduced as a cross-curricular theme between subjects, or as a subject area withinproject work.” (p. 172). “The overall aim (of consumer education) is that pupils andstudents obtain active competencies in a number of fields orbecome empowered to act as citizens in a democratic society.”(p. 172). Consumer education “encompasses a socialization processwith an emancipatory and critical angle and is not just abehaviorist way of thinking.” (p. 172). “… the aim of consumer education must be to produce an„eco-centred‟ or eco-caring teacher and pupil or humanbeing.” (p. 172).
It means that “it is necessary in consumer education to work with boththe consumer and producer roles, to learn and gain experience in thefield.” (p. 173). Human beings must be seen “as both consumers and producers withinthe home or household.” (p.173). The school needs to function as a laboratory in which everyone learnshow to cope with the challenges of life and how to make home andsociety a “harmoniously caring place to live in.” (p. 175). “In conclusion, … the … quotation „Housekeeping means: to use whatyou have in order to get what you want‟ … ought to be changed to„Housekeeping means: to question what you need and to ecologize inorder to get what you and others might want.‟” (p.175).
After you have read the paper by Benn (2002) and you have gonethrough its key points as presented within this power point, try toanswer the following questions to make sure that you understood wellits content: What are the three paradigms which characterize consumerism in modernsocieties? Which of the three paradigms is more powerful in developing consumereducation? Can consumer education be taught as part of other school subjects across thecurriculum and is this a desirable and effective approach? What does “eco-centred” or “eco-caring” teacher and pupil mean in terms ofeducational decisions and school practice? In simple terms, what is the main purpose of consumer education according tothe authors‟ suggestions? Based on the information provided by the present paper, design an “eco-caring” cross-thematic lesson plan on „food and health‟. Get ideas from the twoexamples of school activities described in the paper (pp. 173-174).
This paper examines children‟s and young people‟s experiences andviews on consumption.The key points of the paper are as follows:“… consumerism has become a global, universal and unifying movement … thathas a great significance for and impact on the lives of children and young peopleall over the world.” (p. 108).A change between old times and modern times “is the power and potentialchildren and young people have in relation to consumption, both directly asconsumers themselves and indirectly by influencing parents‟ choices andconsumption.” (p. 108).
The study:Participants: 64 children and young people aged between 12 and 19years old.Procedure:1. contact with schools and teachers2. classroom settings including scenarios, presentation of mind maps ofconsumption today and in the future and small-scale questionnaires concerning thepupil3. interviews of selected individuals4. analysis of methods and dataExample of mind map (page 110 of the paper).Consumptiontoday
The preliminary results of the study:To be a consumer today involvesPositive aspects Difficult aspects•Being „a happy consumer‟ •Power and consciousness•Pleasure •Pressure towards politicalconsumption•„Buying when bored‟ •Criticism about purchasing•Consumption larger than needs •Environmental consciousness•„Ruled by majority‟ •Quality is important•„No end of choices‟•„We are spoilt‟•Identity created by societyTable 2 „To be a consumer today‟ from the mind maps of the uppersecondary school (n=20) (p. 110)
To be a consumer in future deals withPositive aspects Difficult aspects•Some ideas about being •Increasing number of politicalconsumers•Technology will have a great impact •Consideration, consciousness andpower•Intensification of marketing •Independent choice (have ownhouseholds and families in the future)•Easier consumption made possible bytechnology•Conscious of consumption (becauseof own children)•Consumption demands a large laboreffort and big earnings•Recycling•Ecology
Use simple mind map layouts and ask your pupils tofill them in with their ideas about what to be a consumertoday and in the future means to them.Collect your pupils responses, group their answers intocategories and present them using tables.