The irony in MOE’s good intentions

“If your child shows leadership and excels in non-academic areas, he is eligible for the Edusave Award for Achievement, Good Leadership and Service. The award is given based on his achievement in co-curricular activities and contribution to community services over a one-year period.” – Ministry of Education (MOE) website.

My Paper reported:

“The award will range from $200 to $500, depending on the student’s level of education. It will benefit up to 10,000 Singaporean students from early next year.

‘As we place more emphasis on holistic education and character development”, it is time for us to realign “our recognition framework,’ said Mr Heng [Swee Keat, Minister for Education].

Virtues such as resilience, tenacity, integrity, care and respect are among the values he highlighted during the debate.”

The award has been criticised in some areas for eroding the very values which the ministry is trying to inculcate in our students. The gripe perhaps, in particular, centers on presenting monetary rewards to students who show “care and concern” for others. In short, critics say this is perverting these values themselves.

There is some truth to what the critics say, and it is puzzling why the ministry sees a need to introduce such changes to the award scheme which has been for academic achievements until now.

A similar scheme was introduced some years ago for NSmen and reservists who did well in the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). Depending on how an NSman performs, his reward is between S$100 and S$400. Undoubtedly, the scheme – as it is with the Edusave Award – was designed to encourage our soldiers to do better in physical fitness. But one would ask why they should be rewarded for something which all soldiers, anywhere in the world, is expected to be – physically fit.

In the same way, why are we dishing out monetary incentives to students for doing things which they should be doing – caring for others?

When a student realises that his charitable behaviour is “monetisable”, it is a thinking which he will carry into other areas of his life – at home, with friends, at work, in his community and in the larger society. In short, he – and the others who may receive the award each year – will set the stage for the tone of our nation in future, more so if these are top students or “future leaders”.

Next time a parent asks his or her child to do something which the child is supposed to do anyway – such as homework, or to behave, or to be kind to his siblings or friends, for example – he will turn around and asks his parent what reward they are willing to give him! In fact, this is already happening.

Instead of giving out the cash to students, perhaps MOE could tweak the scheme such that the reward which would be paid to the student is donated to a charity of the student’s choice. This way, students are taught selflessness and charity. A “Wall of Recognition” or  a “Wall of Compassion” can be set up in the school where the names of the students can be listed to recognise the students’ altruism. Alternatively, have the student present the cheque to representatives of the charity of his choice at the charity itself or at the school.

For the moment, the new scheme subverts the very values which the ministry is trying to inculcate. Indeed, it is ironic.

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5 responses to “The irony in MOE’s good intentions”

  1. jax says :

    re there is SOME truth in what the critics say: Some truth only?
    so what part of the criticism – paying kids to show care and
    concern erodes the values encouraged – is not true?

  2. sleepless in SG says :

    Since Singapore parents “love” exams so much:

    1) English
    2) Maths
    3) Second Language
    4) Science
    5) Character & Social
    6) Health & Sports

    Add 2 more “subjects” into the PSLE scoring system. This will make parents sit up and maybe some will even find tuition centres for the added 2 “subjects”. (Pathetic isn’t it?) If the MOE is serious about “HOLISTIC” education outcome, in the SG context – make it count towards a student’s overall PSLE score.

    Health & Sports can be relatively easy to implement but the C & S is a bit tricky though. How do you grade an eccentric and/or introverted student whom may later turn out to be a genius ?

    have fun :-))

  3. ws says :

    Here’s another thought.
    If we “incent and reward the student with money who would espouse favorable values, what happens if things took a turn later on where the student displayed different behavior?
    Do we then revoke the monetary award?
    If so, that would also justify the termination of Sunxu’s scholarship wouldn’t it?

  4. Murli says :

    There should not be a “reward” at all, whether it goes to the child/solder directly or to a charity of their choice. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrkrvAUbU9Y

  5. pkisme says :

    while to be physically fit needs some finance (eating well and exercising in well fitted attire),
    values, character, and virtues don’t need any money

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