As kids we all complained that we should get paid to attend school, right? Our parents were getting paid to go wherever they went — why not us too? Well, the United Arab Emirates has channeled their inner eight-year-olds and decided to do just that. In order to motivate their students to do well in school, the U.A.E. government is going to offer a cash stipend for university students who maintain a 3.6 average or above.
The intentions behind this cash-for-grades plan seem sincere, if simplistic. The difference between this and a scholarship system is that the money is not going toward the students' education — they're just throwin' random cash at them, to be spent at the students' discretion. Mohammed Al Maskari, a former deputy director of the Abu Dhabi Education Zone, said that they're hoping to cajole students into taking harder classes this way because typically, “Kids like to be in groups, to be with their friends, and to take the easiest courses." But it doesn't address the actual problem: that too few students are engaged with the curriculum enough to want to learn for the sake of learning.
Edward Deci, author of Why We Do What We Do and a psychology professor at the University of Rochester, says:
“It is easy to get people to do things by paying them if you’ve got enough money and they’ve got the necessary skills. But they will keep doing it only as long as you keep paying them. And even if they were doing it before, when you stop paying them the behavior drops to a lower level than when you started paying them."
Things could very possibly spiral out of control for the United Arab Emirates, which has been relying on immigrants for cheap labor as well as for many skilled professions. Instead of coming up with a way to motivate their own citizens to be more competitive in the job market, they've resorted to bribing them — which likely won't do anything but breed more apathy and a sense of entitlement.