Should Students Be Paid To Get Good Grades?

This topic – whether students should receive payment for obtaining good grades – came up in my Psychology class a few months ago, and it got me thinking.

I’m not the brightest guy on the block, but when it comes to academics, I admit that I do decently. So if someone were to propose to me a plan in which I would receive money for my straight A’s and cash for my SAT score, why not? In this economy, any amount could go a long way. As a high school junior, college is coming up for me in a couple of years, and it’s not like the cost of tuition is becoming cheaper. But while one may be saving for future expenses by receiving money for their academic achievements, they could be losing something far more important in the process – their intrinsic motivation.

I just had to include this.

It’s okay to be motivated by external factors and possess extrinsic motivation. Like most teens, I work hard to please my parents and to avoid reprimand for receiving bad grades. But what’s really important, and what should drive people to do the things they do in life, is intrinsic motivation – a desire to accomplish something simply for the sake of accomplishing it. By paying students for their work in school, those in charge would be promoting a system of immediate gratification – and emphasizing the largeness of external incentives, as opposed to that of internal willpower.

In life, there are things that are more valuable than money. When beginning a career, you could sacrifice your soul and pursue a profession for the sake of its salary. Or, you could try your luck with what you love. The latter option may be more difficult, but with work ethic and determination, you could end up making it big and enjoying your work. This is the lesson that students should be taught – to actually care about what they’re learning, and to learn for learning’s sake.

All of that aside, aren’t there better things we could be spending our tax dollars on? Such as increasing the amount of jobs available or improving the state of the economy in general? It seems a little shortsighted to spend money to motivate kids and teens to study when studying itself is what will allow them to earn more money in the future.

Furthermore, in addressing the issue with education, there are other routes that could be taken. Parents could show more concern for their children’s education. Teachers’ salaries could be supplemented. Kids and teens could stay after school and earn money by cleaning or assisting in other janitorial duties, thus helping those in actual financial distress.

While I understand the reasoning behind the idea of paying students to get good grades, I disagree with it because it is a temporary solution to a permanent problem. If students don’t care about their schoolwork or feel any motivation to learn independently, then this progresses from an issue of motivation to a question of the psychological mindset of contemporary society as a whole.

Agree or disagree? Do any of you get paid for earning good grades? Would you like to be? Why or why not? On a random side note, I’m currently on spring break, which is why I’m able to write more than usual. I should go study now, see you guys soon!

AP exams are exactly in one month... why do I have three books for AP US History? It's a long story.

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23 Comments

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23 responses to “Should Students Be Paid To Get Good Grades?

  1. Hi Thomas! Oh goodie we’ll be hearing more from you! I’ve come across this very incentive in a psychology textbook but instead of money they would dish out pizza if they took part in Math games in class.
    Two classes took part in an experiment, A was given pizza and the other, B, got none. A put their hearts into it while B didn’t exert as much effort. When the cheese stopped flowing, A lost interest in the games but B still kept going because the just wanted to even though the got no pizza in the first place, they wanted to learn anyways. If you want, I can get the article for you.
    I wholly disagree it, the very idea sounds absurd if you’d ask me, didn’t wast any time saying that when we had a little debate in class about it.
    Why should we be paid to do something we can really well at if we at least try to do without actually being paid? Nobody paid Da Vinci, Einstein, Newton or Galileo, now did they? Like you’ve said, we should be fueled by our curiosity, our drive, our passion to learn, and if this proposition actually goes through it would only emphasize on material gain and not on learning.

    While I understand the reasoning behind the idea of paying students to get good grades, I disagree with it because it is a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

    It seems a little shortsighted to spend money to motivate kids and teens to study when studying itself is what will allow them to earn more money in the future.

    Kids and teens could stay after school and earn money by cleaning or assisting in other janitorial duties, thus helping those in actual financial distress.
    I could not have said it better.

    Say, you paid the kids and they got, cool, but the next thing you know you’ll have to pay ‘em to clean their rooms too, heh. Getting an education is very important, it’s for our own good and we should work towards achieving the highest we can get, for us and for our future and we shouldn’t be paid for that. If I were to take up that offer, I don’t think I would value my knowledge as much as I would otherwise.
    I will be completely honest when I say I couldn’t survive the shame it would bring to me (and my family, who would stuff my head in a paper bag) if I were to tell people that I get money to study!
    This is another excellent post, Thomas, do keep it up :) I’m elated to hear that we’ll be seeing more of you now, no pressure though ;) Phew, that was long.
    All the best, Devina.

    • Ah, thanks for the amazing and detailed comment Devina! I would be interested in seeing that article, though if it’s too much trouble then I don’t need to see it. I agree with everything you’ve stated, especially on the point that if we pay kids to study, then we’ll have to pay them to clean their rooms – I was thinking something similar to that… for example, if we pay kids to study, then they may feel that they should be paid to simply get a job (as opposed to being paid for doing the job well). Though that’s somewhat of a far-reaching analogy at this point, you never know how much a situation like this could progress down its slippery slope.

      Thanks again for reading and commenting! As for your comment below, I can see where you’re coming from with the clarification. An interesting note is that many authors (and I’m sure contributors in other fields) received almost no money or recognition for their works until after they died – they had only been writing or doing whatever for the purpose of doing it.

      • No worries, but I’ll send you it after Easter break though.

        … you never know how much a situation like this could progress down its slippery slope.
        > I know, that’s why I’m a little scared … some things just keep on changing for the worst.

        … they had only been writing or doing whatever for the purpose of doing it.
        > The more reason to look up to them.

  2. Nobody paid Da Vinci, Einstein, Newton or Galileo, now did they?
    Okay, they got money for whatever services they’ve provided, but not for their burning curiosity that has affected modern science and life as we know it today. Just wanted to make that bit more clear.

  3. I’m a straight A+ student with a 96% average. Do I get paid for my grades? Of course not. The most I’ve ever gotten from my parents is “Oh, good job.” That wouldn’t bother me, except for how they glow over my little sister, whose average grade is 77%. I know it’s petty, but she doesn’t TRY in school and they still congratulate her.

    Okay, moving on from my little rant…I don’t think kids should be paid to get good grades. Intrinsic motivation as well as external motivation from teachers, parents and *gasp* other students should be enough. Looking ahead to getting a career you love should also be pretty good motivation.

    • I have a sibling too, and I know how you feel. I think parents’ expectations of their children can vary – they may know that you’re a high achiever and that you do well, so they may be less surprised or seem less supportive because of that. As long as you know how bright you are, I think you’ll be fine. (:

      Also, I agree on that point. Not only is there (or there should be) intrinsic motivation, but extrinsic motivation is already being provided by plenty of sources. Ditto on the career thing.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. From time to time it’s nice to receive something tangible for certain accomplishments. But studying just for the sake of it just doesn’t feel right.

    For me personally, it’s not enough to keep me going. Especially whenever I’d feel like quitting from college, bribing doesn’t do any magic. Sometimes it even makes things worse.

    If you have spare time, you may find this video interesting. One of my college instructors showed this to us in class:

  5. Cara

    I would have told you a resounding YES a couple of years ago but sadly I think it wouldn’t work. I think there would be bad blood between students and create more problems. Who is to say that this would work with a lot of people? It might work for some but then why are they learning? Just for the money right? And an education is mostly a benefit to you (well scratch that it’s good for the world to have educated people), but as a student you aren’t producing goods or giving services so it doesn’t make much sense.
    I know schools try to give other incentives like give the kids trips and special outings. But I’d hate to think about the kids that struggle in school who wouldn’t be able to reap the benefits and feel even worse than they already do.
    Great post Thomas!

    • All of the reasons you listed are true as to why paying kids to gain good grades wouldn’t work – especially about how it doesn’t make much sense because students aren’t technically producing anything and about how the students who already struggle would only be put down more. Indeed, it would increase competition, possibly to a detrimental amount.

      Thanks for reading and commenting as always, Cara!

  6. Linde

    Hey Thomas!
    I came here on your blog when I was reading some reviews about a book I bought a little while ago, The Help. I enjoyed reading your review so I jumped to your profile, and then I came here. (I thought It would be nice to describe how I came here, haha).

    I think it is not a good idea to motivate students with money as a reward for good grades. Two reasons:
    First, there are students who have to study 1 hour for a test, where another students need 5 hours to get the same result as student 1. Would be unfair to reward the first student also, considering the fact that he/she has a photograpical memory. (Oh, short sidenote: I’m dutch so my english is not perfect). But that’s just one thing, a small thing. There is another thing that is, in my eyes, more important than the first reason I gave you.

    You can be supersmart, but not motivated. Then you probably studying beneath your level, just because you are not motivated. But I think, you are then not studying beneath your level, because motivation is a part of smartness! Here in Holland, when you have good grades you can get to university. But there do you only have 10 hours class a week, the rest is selfstudy (I mean, you have to learn and study in your time). When you are supersmart, but when you have no motivation, you will never get through university.

    So, euhh, another thing, just popped into my head, is that if we are only motivated in school with money, how do we get motivated to do other things?

    Oh, that’s a lot of text I wrote. Have a nice day!
    Linde

    • I agree with everything you’ve said! It is unfair for those who do not put in the work to receive money when in reality those who are hard workers may end up more successful in college or later in life. While I suppose in a job scenario the person who gets the job done is rewarded (irrespective of the amount of work put in), it would be bad to reward those who do not put in much work at all, because it would provide them with a sign saying that they don’t need to work hard in the future, because they’re getting paid for slacking now.

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your perspective, it’s intriguing to see how education is similar yet different in Holland compared to here in the United States!

  7. man these guy replys to all of them reasons and of cours we should get paid for good grades in school we be up intill 2 to 4 am just to finish assigments and more teens wont drop out of school or also help a little with the $ for feenage parents

    • Hm, students who stay up until 2 or 4 am to finish assignments should perhaps lighten up their course or try to get help from their teachers? I think school is not for everyone and that we shouldn’t bribe kids to stay in school, rather, we should find a method to keep them interested in their studies. Finally, I feel like it’s the teenaged parents’ responsibility to provide for their child – they should get jobs, and should have considered whether they could afford to care for a child before having one. Of course the child takes priority to schoolwork, but getting a high school degree and a college degree would lead to more money in the long run.

  8. emmy

    I think they shouldn’t get paid for good grades because the will only be focusing for money. You should be focusing all the time even if your not getting paid. If you get good grades, yea you should be going to a good school and a nice college but if you were to get paid for a good grade. That’s just wrong If i was to help some old lady with her grocery’s uhh yea I’m supposed to get paid 5 dollars, but if a student gets paid 20 or 10 dollars that is a big deal. They will also expect to get paid outside of school too and they need to learn that money will pay off at the end. And it is not fair for the people that did a bad job, shouldn’t they get rewarded something two? People may want to copy because they want money so they will maybe pretend to get a tissue or sit next to a smart person that gets money all the time and copy. And that is not fair for the people that did a good job. Should children get paid? Yea. Should they get paid in school? No.

    • I agree, while money is a necessity in real life it shouldn’t be the force promoting learning – we need children to develop an intrinsic love of knowledge. You raise a lot of great points regarding problems that could come out of paying students, like a higher rate of cheating. Thank you for your comments and your thoughts!

  9. emmy

    ^ that was me :) oh and yea my name is actually jackie not emmy i just dont want my teacher to know that its me :D

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