Saturday, March 10, 2012
Debate over giving cash for showing good values
THIS is one instance where some people feel monetary rewards are not appropriate. While many welcome the new Education Ministry's Edusave Character Award, they question the need to link a cash value to it.
By Stacey Chia
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said in Parliament on Thursday that teachers can nominate students for the award, which will be launched this year.
The yearly award comes with a cash sum of $200 to $500. Up to 10,000 students are expected to get it every year.
'The Edusave Scholarship award and Eagles award are also monetary awards; this shows that values are given just as much importance by the ministry.'
Mr Richard Chew, principal of Yusof Ishak Secondary School, who says the Edusave Character Award is like any other award, which students can use to supplement their education
'I don't want my child growing up doing things only when he will be rewarded with money.'
Parent Yvonne Lim, 39, who feels that verbal recognition should suffice
The award is in line with the Education Ministry's push to promote values in schools.
But the move has prompted concerns that the award, which is supposed to encourage people to demonstrate good values, may backfire and promote materialism instead.
National University of Singapore sociologist Tan Ern Ser said praise from authority figures and acceptance by group members should be sufficient rewards for good character.
'Extrinsic rewards can undermine intrinsic motivation to do good. One may end up doing something just for the monetary rewards, without a real change of character,' he added.
A parent, Madam Yvonne Lim, 39, feels that verbal recognition is good enough.
'I don't want my child growing up doing things only when he will be rewarded with money,' she said.
Psychologist Geraldine Tan from the Centre for Effective Living said she normally recommends parents avoid giving incentives such as money and food.
She noted that there were also students who did good passively and that it would be difficult to accurately identify those deserving of the award.
'You should not be able to put a fixed value on things like good character,' said Ms Tan.
Mr Dennis Ang, 35, a former junior college teacher, said many students are already doing charitable work, and without a reward.
'It seems more like a formality to me but it's good. There will need to be guidelines to aid the selection process,' he said.
Psychologist Daniel Koh from Insights Mind Centre said people in general respond better to positive reinforcements, but the award should not be made glamorous 'because it takes away the basic principle - to help and not to show'.
There was also a lively discussion on The Straits Times Facebook page.
Ms Serene Chew posted that such an award gives people the impression that good behaviour will be rewarded with money.
'Is this really the way to teach or encourage our next generation to have the right values and expectations in life?'
In a response to queries from The Straits Times, a Ministry of Education spokesman said the new award is to send a strong signal of the importance of values and character development.
'Similar to the other Edusave awards, the monetary award serves as encouragement but is not meant to reduce character and values to a dollar figure,' the spokesman added.
But some applaud the move to give the cash award.
Mr Richard Chew, principal of Yusof Ishak Secondary School, said it is like any other cash award, which students can use to supplement their education.
'The Edusave Scholarship award and Eagles award are also monetary awards; this shows that values are given just as much importance by the ministry,' he added.
Mr Lim Biow Chuan, who chairs the Government Parliamentary Committee for Education, shares similar views.
He said he supports the award as it is one way to keep the importance of character and values in the minds of educators, students and parents.
'Perhaps money doesn't have to be attached to it, but it's something that will probably need fine-tuning in time.'
Mrs Jenny Yeo, principal of South View Primary School, said she does not oppose a monetary incentive.
She recalled that a pupil once donated $500 from his Edusave Scholarship award of $800 to the school.
'Selection will be stringent and I believe they will use the money wisely,' she added.