Friday, September 25, 2009

Consumer Education

The Guardian of 24th.Sept.2009
It has been noted that lack of consumer education from the lower levels of learning institutions has meant that few Tanzanians are conversant with it, hence the government has been advised to incorporate it in the basic school curriculum.

Speaking in Dar es Salaam this week, Seif Hamis Simba, a programme officer with the Tanzania Consumer Advocacy Society (TCAS), said consumer education is often not clearly and easily understood as it means different things from person to person.

He said, both children and adults should grow into becoming well-informed and critical consumers of products, commercial services, and public service. According to Simba, the process entails not so much the provision of consumer information regarding products, services, the environment and other considerations but rather the continuous cultivation and development of living skills.

He expands on this that the skills would include such cognitive powers as critical and conceptual thinking, knowledge and understanding the impact of individual, business and government decisions on consumers. “Consumer Education involves the development of abilities to make decisions in the purchase of goods and services in the light of personal values, maximum utilization of resources, available alternatives, and ecological considerations,” he said.

He said consumer education at school level is essential to provide the skills and knowledge to empower consumers and enable them use their resources effectively and increase their awareness of their wider role in society.

According to him, consumer education addresses not only the problems of consumers individually but also of sustainable consumption, social justice, human rights, ethical values and overcoming poverty. Consumer education contributes towards the formation of a participative, critical and competent citizenship.

He said specifically, consumer education enables individuals to develop the ability to possess a critical, consumer-reasoned appraisal. Reasoned appraisal could include the overall implications, both to the individual and society, of consuming that particular product or service.

“Through consumer education, consumers are equipped with knowledge, skills and understanding of the market. Consumer education enables consumers to judge and make competent decisions about their financial transactions”, he said.

It also stimulates the nation’s social and economic development. Consumers, who exercise free choice based on knowledge of the facts will be able to make the best use of resources within their sphere of influence.

In his comments, consumer advocate Bernard Kihiyo said that there are four aspects of consumer education. The first aspect is informed choice where consumers must learn to obtain information about goods and services.

Also to distinguish between different sources of information, understand the psychology of selling and advertising, learn to shop wisely, distinguish between needs and wants, understand the alternatives of conserving and saving rather than buying and consuming.

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