When I was a little kid, my mother offered me money to do math, 2 ngwee per sum. As I grew older, the
monetary rewards stopped, perhaps because my mother didn’t want me to be motivated only by money. Or perhaps it was my sister who spoiled it all with her "show me the money too" demands.
A British school tried to motivate students with money too, but only for one year.
PUPILS who say they were told they would earn £100 for good GCSE grades
were left with nothing after the school dropped an incentive scheme –
without telling them.
Children at Buile Hill secondary in Salford were promised cash in return for achieving marks of grade C and above. [Link]
Grade C and above? When they set the bar so low, the children won’t be challenged much, unless they’re trying to become limbo dancers.
A program in New York City is also dangling cash in front of some students.
The REACH program, operating in 31
schools in New York City, is offering low-income and minority students
cash incentives for high AP test scores. Starting this school year,
students earning a score of 3—the first passing score—stand to make
$500, a score of 4 earns $750, and a top score of 5 will be worth
If we can give $1,000 to the student who manages to earn a top score, perhaps we can give a few bucks — or at least 50 cents — to the student who manages to stay awake in class. And what about the student who remembers to comb his hair?
Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, isn’t sold on monetary rewards for students.
Obviously, the intrinsic rewards of learning aren’t working in New York schools, at least not for a lot of children. It may be that the current state of achievement is low enough that desperate measures are called
for, and it’s worth trying anything. And we don’t know whether in this case, motives will complement or compete.
But it is plausible that when students get paid to go to class and show up for tests, they will be even less interested in the work than they would be if no incentives were present. If that happens, the incentive system will make the learning problem worse in the long run, even if it improves achievement in the short run unless we’re prepared to follow these children through life, giving them a pat on the head, or an M&M or
a check every time they learn something new. [Link]
He might be right, but without those 2 ngwees my mother gave me, I’d probably be at McDonald’s, handing out the wrong change.
Photo by Paultron