THE problem of dirty and vandalised school toilets can be resolved by getting students to look after the toilets, instead of installing CCTVs. This idea was floated by a writer in the media recently.
She suggested that classes take turns to spruce up the toilets and this could be done with a proper timetable. She proposed incentives such as a prize for the class that is judged to be the best in this community effort.
I fully agree with the idea that students should be taught to keep the toilets clean (not merely sprucing up) by involving them actively.
This should not mean decorating the toilets with flowers and posters, but the actual cleaning of the toilet bowls, urinals, sinks, floor and walls.
However, I disagree that there should be any kind of reward for doing this.
Once rewards are given, they become the objective and not part of character development.
The job is then done with the reward in mind and not in the job itself. And when the rewards stop coming, the job no longer becomes worth doing.
Discontentment can also arise when rewards are given. How is the evaluation done? Is there consistency in the evaluation? Is there favouritism?
Teachers will have to come up with a checklist of things to look out for.
Awarding prizes for something that should be part of our character is an approach that has hidden negative consequences. Children then begin to expect rewards for anything they do.
The worst negative consequence of this method of “motivating” children is to sow the seeds of seeking gratification in adult life and that means corruption.
A reward is not only expected but is felt to be a right for doing something. This does not help in creating a society that abhors the giving and taking of “presents” for doing one’s job.
Volunteerism is what we need to sow in our children. They need to be taught to do things without expecting any reward.
In school it means keeping their own classroom floors, the corridors and drains outside their classrooms, flower pots (if any) and the field clean of any bits of paper and food wrappers.
Only then would they learn social responsibility.
Adults do not realise the long-term negative consequences of giving “rewards” to children to motivate them to do something. This is because it takes many years for the children to grow up and show their character in adult life.
Receiving of presents for doing a civic duty becomes a habit that grows with them. Thus the connection between the giving of “rewards” for them to do something during childhood, and their demanding of “rewards” for doing their work in adult life, is lost.
Children who grow up in a culture of getting rewards for doing what is their social responsibility, will be corruption prone in adult life.
Being children, they do not understand the concept of “social responsibility”. As such, the adults around them, the parents and teachers, have to teach them this by making them do things like keeping their own classrooms, the school compound and toilets clean.
Similarly at home, they should be keeping their rooms clean. They should be made to pick up their toys and store them neatly, etc. This is the prescriptive approach.
Let us not sow the seeds of corruption through the wrong approach of getting children to do the proper things by “motivating” them with “rewards”.
Children on their own do not expect material rewards. Depending on a child’s age, a smile from the parent or teacher can be rewarding and make a child happy.
A word of appreciation, a pat on the shoulder, a handshake or a hug are also great rewards for children.
Prizes should be reserved for things like essay writing competitions, for debates, for winning during the school sports and for excelling in some games.
So let us educate our children and not spoil them through our good intentions that lead to the inappropriate actions of unknowingly sowing the seeds of corruption.
Ravinder Sing The STAR Online Home Opinion Letters 18/09/2013