Should kids be given financial incentives to learn?
Soon enough it will be coming to that time again where our youngsters will hopefully be burying their heads into the books and trying to cram as much last minute knowledge into their brain as they can to succeed in passing their school exams.
I remember this time in my life well even though it was over 10 years ago – that’s quite a scary thought isn’t it! I remember walking out of my high school doors for the last time with a shirt full of marker pen signatures and well wishes from my friends knowing that I’d be back in just a few weeks’ time to face my final exams, a culmination of a lifetime of learning up until that point. If I was going to achieve my full potential in these exams then I was going to have to study long and hard during the ‘Study break’ we are given here in the UK before we take those final exams.
Nowadays I tend to be quite disciplined in the things I do, I set myself goals and I pretty much don’t stop until I achieve them. That was not the case in my teenage years however. As a teenager I’d much rather be out playing football and having a laugh with my mates than studying, couple this with the overconfidence of youth and the feeling that I would breeze through my upcoming exams and you can imagine that the discipline to actually sit down and study wasn’t exactly there in abundance.
A financial incentive came along
Before I go into the financial incentive I was offered for the exams, let me just tell you a little bit about how I think it came about.
Since I was a child I’ve always had a natural inclination to want to earn money. From the age of 12 I was raised in a single parent family where my mother had to financially support myself and my two siblings on an extremely tight budget. As money was so tight if I wanted to have extra things then I had to earn the money for them myself. I had a job at our local market all through my school years and I’d always try and pick up little jobs wherever I could. My mum worked as a sales person on my aunt’s farm and when the school holidays came along, more often than not I would go with her to the farm while she worked. While I was there my aunty used to find jobs for me to do too – some of them extremely tedious like ripping the foil tops off those little plastic butter packets you get with your toast in service stations, 1000’s of the things – and she would then pay me according to how many boxes I got through. She probably knew it anyway but things like this likely showed my aunt that I was quite easily motivated when there was a bit of money to be earned. Now back to the exam incentive.
I don’t know if my mum had let it slip to – or deliberately told – my aunt that I was spending more time playing football during my study break than I was studying, but one day I got a phone call from my aunt with a financial offer for me. She basically said that she would like to reward me monetarily depending on how well I did in my exams. I can’t remember the exact amounts but it was something like I’ll give you £20 for every ‘A’ mark you get, £10 for every ‘B’ and £5 for every C. That was quite a lot of money to me back then and needless to say I pretty much dropped my football in the street, ran into the house and grabbed a revision guide. I did pretty well in my exams in the end, a lot better than I would have done without my aunt’s incentive.
So my question to you is this, do you think what my aunt did was a good or a bad thing to do? Is it right to monetarily incentivize young people to achieve in the same way that we do for adults, or does it set a bad precedent where kids will only do things if money is involved?