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VIEWPOINT: The language of prosperity

“The power of accounting is often forgotten by students, educators and even professional accountants.”

Like maths and science, accounting is considered boring by many people, especially in comparison to subjects like English, Art and Drama. These ‘creative’ subjects give students tools to comprehend other people’s stories and express their own dreams and wishes.

Although tragically overlooked, maths, science and accounting have their own great and important stories to tell about the world around us and how things work. It tells us about the economy, business and personal prosperity. Stories that inspire us and guide our choices, stories of creation and success.

But unfortunately, the extent of the power of accounting is often forgotten by students, educators and even accountants. There is so much more to it than simply assembling the numbers at month-end. Those numbers are part of a grand drama, and we’re not laying stones, we’re building cathedrals.

Learning accounting can and should be just as enthralling as learning a new language. It’s the language of business, and it opens the doors to a powerful truth: that when you can translate your organisation’s story in a way that your people can grasp, you become a leader with the power to shape that story and rally the actors.

So why do we so often hear accounting described as a “boring subject”?

Because it’s easy for learners to miss the wood for the trees – having to, for example, memorise naming conventions before they have a solid understanding of the fundamentals. And when you can’t see the big picture, it’s difficult to remain motivated.

I find it incredibly disappointing when the magic of accounting is killed by an overly procedural approach to teaching. And in a country like South Africa, with high unemployment levels and an ever-widening skills gap, it’s truly tragic to ‘lose’ learners.

So what can we do?

Worries about South Africa’s education infrastructure aside, we need to encourage and appreciate our teachers. Support them by teaching our kids that accounting is the essence of business, inspiring them with tales of accounting in action, and showing them how accountability underpins society.

We need to become accounting evangelists… to be proud of what we do… to think carefully about how we describe ourselves. Ours is to inspire the young about what’s possible, to get them to see the big picture before drowning in the detail of accounting procedure.

 We, the storytellers, problem solvers, creators. We, the accountants! ❐

Author: Peter Frampton (CA)SA is co-founder and CEO of Color Accounting International