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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Monday, 8 March 2004
Show me the money.
A new incentive scheme to tackle truancy in Manchester has taken an interesting approach. Schoolchildren could win prizes just for attending lessons! As this story explains, each week, a computer will select random names of six pupils from six different schools across the city. They will each win vouchers worth up to #100 if they have been in classes at particular times.

I think that the schools might be on to something. They may have at last realised that children are mostly motivated by money and not by the beauty of aquiring knowledge for its own sake. As a child I was always astonished at how little connection was made between the world of commerce and my education. I recall my friend Tony asking a maths teacher if he could show us how to use maths to invest on the stock market and getting a completely blank look in return, not because the teacher regarded the question as impertinent or distracting, but because he had absolutely no idea what to say. It had probably never once occurred to him.

In a previous post, I described going to a presentation for a perfume company called 'Maison d'Essence'. Most of the people in attendance were young, about 17 to 20. Nearly half were black. They would have left school only a few months earlier. Had they been academically gifted, they would have stayed there or gone on to colleges.

So the people I was looking at were the ones who had not succeeded. But were they disruptive or distracted during the presentation? Not a bit of it. You could have heard a pin drop in that room because they believed that someone was finally telling them what they wanted to know: How to make money.

The real solution to truancy in Manchester or anywhere else is to make every lesson a "prize" for the discouraged kids. One start would be to demonstrate clearly why any given lesson taught is of value financially. The love of knowledge for its own sake comes later to people who are secure in their career. The educational establishment needs to make education more vocationally relevant.

_ DY at 2:16 PM GMT
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