Motivational tools: Payment Vs. Incentive to study

The recent new headline could not have escaped your attention: Georgia School Students getting paid to study! Anything strange and bizarre, becomes the head line or the news story repeated everywhere –  in the press, TV news, talk shows, what have you.

One web link and a few quotes from this article are posted at the end of this message. 

 The above situation is like every other news item we deal with. The information needed is all there. But, what is lacking is a cohesive connection leading to something useful for the long run. Let us look at what we learn from this article:

First, such a program is a non-starter, without a well-known politician proposing a half-baked idea. Incentives to motivate children are good; Poor students need money to have a decent living conditions; you can not mix basic living needs with incentives for excellence; cash or any incentive is not a substitute for self-esteem; there is a big gap between salary or payment for an output and reward for excelling in a competition.

To suggest that rich parents give money to children to go to school is either incorrect or misunderstood. Any parent – rich or poor – giving payment to children, to do what they are supposed to do, in terms of school work and learning, are sure to kill the self-esteem of those children.

Learning is not what happens in the few hours of the classroom. It happens during the hours of rigorous practice and homework. If the parents at home are not encouraging children to sit down and study at home and do their home work, then all the class room hours will have only minimal impact. May be this requires making payments to parents, to create a decent condition conducive for study at home? Oh No, one can’t even mention that without being accused as a socialist and community activist! Who leads this charge? The very same politicians and rich donors, who propose the half-baked ideas!

If the conditions are not conducive to thinking and reflection after the classroom hours, there will be little or no learning. Kids love to play sports, qualify for the school team and put in their hard work at practice to remain competitive, without being asked to do so. It happens because they see it as a desirable part of life – to be seen as “accomplished” by their peers. Any school that squander its little resources in terms of payments to kids is left with even less to create true motivational opportunities for the children to study and learn.

Better education, especially for the poor and unmotivated children is a laudable goal. No one should fault any one for giving it a try. But, it would be valuable if such efforts were made in a concerted effort that involves the school, the teachers, parents, students, donors and the politicians. But, such working together – collectively as a “system” – is too much to ask in a society of polarized views and arbitrary tasks. This is the lesson we all need to learn. May be there should be a payment – $/hr. – for all those who are willing to sit down in a classroom to learn this basic common need?

2 Georgia Schools pay students to study:

            “Students get paid $8 an hour to attend study classes, four hours a week. Aside from the hourly wage, eighth-graders will get a $75 bonus, and 11th-graders $125, if they improve their math and science grades to a B and achieve certain test scores. For the older kids, that adds up to $605 for a semester of studying. The hope is that the bribes will boost students’ motivation to learn, attend class and get better grades”.

The privately funded “Learn & Earn” initiative, an idea from former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, is touted as the first of its kind in the state and one of a few similar programs nationwide. “We want to try something new,” said Jackie Cushman, Gingrich’s daughter and co-founder of the group funding the initiative.

“They have not figured out a way to self-motivate these kids,” said Peter A. Spevak, director of the Center for Applied Motivation in Washington, D.C. “What really drives a person is the desire to do well and the good feeling you have after doing your best every day.”

“Yarger, who has a part-time job at Burger King, said she was interested in the program even before she heard about the financial incentives. She would have taken part even without the money, she said, but her father said the cash doesn’t hurt.” It’s a good motivational tactic,” Anthony Yarger said. “Whether it’s a dollar or a candy bar, if it’s helpful, I support it.”

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