Australia Children News & Commentary State

Schools phase-out awards, students anxious about not winning

There can be no losers if there are no winners. That seems to be the philosophy some schools are now adopting, by phasing out the practice of rewarding high achieving students who excel above their peers.

Students from St James’ Parish School in Victoria will now be required to compete against themselves and the personal achievements they set the prior year.

According to ABC News, “Children celebrate not with a shiny piece of satin to pin on their shirts, but with the warm inner glow that comes from achieving a personal best (PB), and working together to beat the total number of PB’s set the previous year.”

Students at the school reportedly said they’re grateful for the change, as they’re no longer feeling a sense of anxiety about not coming first.

Co-principal Peter Fahey told the ABC: “In the past children competed but it was at the expense of another child. Now they all gather around and cheer each other.”

Mr Fahey went on to explain that our children and society have become praise-dependent.

“The diet of constant reinforcement and praise — where children are told they can do anything, they are bubble-wrapped, cotton-wooled and pampered in an attempt to raise their self-esteem — is having dire consequences,” he said.

Last year, Westmead Public School started to phase out the award-system after coming to the belief that “rewards were making students anxious and competitive and undermining their sense of fairness.”

The school’s official Twitter account sent out a number of tweets explaining the decision:

“We deeply engage in research about student motivation and are adapting to meet the needs of our kids to ensure everyone is known, valued and cared for. We do not claim to be ‘award free’ but we do aim to be intrinsically focused and strategic in what awards exist and why.

“As part of our process we removed our incremental awards system and shifted focus to providing students with feedback and providing students with opportunities to understand and develop the character strengths they will require in their future lives. We focus on student growth,” the school said.

One Nation MP Mark Latham responded by saying: “One of the largest primary schools in NSW, Westmead Public, has abolished end-of-year awards K-2 and achievement certificates across the school.

“Instead of ‘All Must Have Prizes’ they have gone to ‘None Must Have Prizes’, a Soviet variation and betrayal of high achieving students.

“There has been a steady decline in Westmead’s combined 3/5 NAPLAN results since 2012, especially in Writing. Sadly, it’s not ‘student growth’ but regression. The Golden Rule applies: ‘progressive’ ideological learning programs = weaker results for the children.”

What do you think? Should schools phase our the current reward-system or does it teach kids valuable life lessons?

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