Awards and Prizes

Last Thursday, I was invited to the Warwick University (UK) Academic Excellence Award Ceremony. It was much smaller than the similar occasion at Sorbonne University I attended in 2011, but it was just as awesome observing the cream of the crop received their certificate of recognition, listening to the quartet while socialising and drinking, and watching gifted and talented young people interact with each other and wondering what they will become. With a population of about 13, 000 undergraduate students, only 61 from the Faculties of Arts, Science and Social Sciences were publicly congratulated during this annual occasion (about 0.5%). The figure is even less in other educational institutions, and not all gifted students are awarded considering that there are about 2% of them. Is it unfair to give awards to just a few? Should we celebrate students’ excellent achievements?

Though we are accustomed to giving awards and prizes from elementary (e.g. honours) to tertiary education (e.g. scholarships), not all educators agree to this practice, and there’s a growing number of them who think this is a form of elitism. One argument is that this promotes individual success as opposed to group accomplishment or teamwork. They question the impact of this practice to those who don’t get awards even when they work hard?

For me, the giving of awards and prizes is one way to motivate students to continue their hard work and maximise their potentials. It’s a positive feedback, a public show of approval of their excellent performance and an acknowledgement of their contribution to the learning community.

Both positive and negative remarks affect motivation, and therefore performance, but studies consistently demonstrate a correlation between positive feedback and success; and this is because negative comments destroy self-esteem whereas positive ones encourage self-confidence and competence. Read more ... BRolade Societal Blog - roladesocietalblog.com

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