Rewarding good character with hard cold cash. No Kidding!

~By: Jen~

I am very disturbed by the new Edusave Character Award scheme by the Ministry of Education to reward good character in students with hard cold cash. This award according to MOE’s Minister Heng Swee Keat, is to recognise students who exhibit values such as respect and who demonstrate exemplary civic responsibility through their behaviour and actions.

I am all for cultivating good values, but to actually have a scheme to give money to students for doing and being good just goes against the grain of what it means to be a good person. I believe most of us were taught by our parents to be good and to do good not for reward, but because, it is good for us and society in general. Isn’t this a universal principle?

Yet, now we have this pay-money-for-good-behaviour scheme. What exactly were our education minister and the ministry thinking? What values are they trying to inculcate in our impressionable young? That it literally has to ‘pay’ to do ‘good?’

As it is there are already so many award schemes at schools that pay cash to reward students. The Edusave Awards for Achievement, Good Leadership and Service (Eagles) and bursaries for most improved in school grades (which some kids have learnt to game the system to make money by deliberately doing badly in first half of the year).

I believe using reward as a motivator can be useful and good, but it cannot be the easy way out and cash should not be used in certain situations. Whatever happened to the good old days when reward meant getting a good book? Okay, maybe not a book in today’s internet age, but surely MOE can come out with more creative ways of motivation than just cash.

One cannot help, but wonder, if there is a political agenda behind the Edusave Character Award scheme that comes post-haste after GE2011. Based on Mr Heng’s comments in Parliament, he said such a scheme is not just to drive home the importance of character building among the young but it is to “ultimately, prepare them for a world of unknowns… It is more about how to process information, discern truths from untruths, connect seemingly disparate dots and create knowledge even as the context changes…”

Read Mr Heng’s quote again and one wonders how to connect the disparate dots between what he said with the new character building award. If one were to read between the lines or dots, it sounds like it may be part of a plan to mold young minds in a certain way so that it is aligned with the thinking of the PAP’s values. Shape the young so they can be “reasonable” and “speak with reason” in line with their definition of reasoning and make sure the kids here do not grow up to be the vocal “lunatic fringe”?

It will be interesting to know what criterion is used by MOE to judge if a student has good character and values. Will it be considered good character if a student is an activist who criticises a government policy because he or she views it as questionable and detrimental to the people? One wonders.

Despite all the initial signs shown by the PAP during GE2011 that they will try to be more understanding and open-minded, some of their actions post GE like introducing this Edusave Character Scheme leaves a bad taste in the mouth. This scheme is regressive as it smacks of political manipulation to shape young minds and teaches the wrong values of paying cash to reward good behaviour. As it is, Singaporeans are already being accused of being too money minded and here they go teaching our young the wrong values. Seriously, what is our government thinking?


This article first appeared on Jentrified Citizen. We thank Jen for allowing us to reproduce it here.