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Academic awards: Promoting student motivation, high achievement

HAVE you ever thought deeply about those ‘stars’ that teachers used to scrawl in your book or on the answer sheet to indicate that the mark you scored in an exercise or test was excellent? That must have been in grade one, two, three, four or even five.
Then as you grew up you cherished being praised for your high achievement in different subjects. Whether the praises were offered verbally or through a gift or money, as a token to reward you for your hard work, the truth is that you were continuously motivated to work extra hard at school.
Indeed there could be several factors hindering children’s concentration or motivation with regard to their schoolwork, but the fact is that they love those ‘stars’ given to them by their teachers. Many actually look forward to getting more and more of them till they are masters in their favourite subjects.
Such students are encouraged to perform better when there is the prospect of a reward towards their academic achievement. And the prospect of losing a reward if they don’t do well, further motivates them to perform even better. So what is important is for those that are involved in the education system, especially the teachers, who act as a source of primary motivation among learners, to ensure that there is a balance between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic rewards.
Rewards must be given to high achievers to encourage them, to appreciate them and to motivate them to continue working hard. No doubt, this is one of the main reasons why Pearson, a leading learning company which has a presence in the United States of America (USA), the United Kingdom (UK), Australia and South Africa, last week on Thursday, May 19, honoured Zambia’s top students at an awards ceremony held at the University of Zambia main campus in Lusaka.
According to Christine Hayes, regional development manager for Pearson International Qualifications in southern Africa, the Outstanding Pearson Learner Awards recognise outstanding learners as those who have achieved A or A+ equivalent grades in the UK Edexcel qualifications, including at the general certificate of secondary education (GCSE), International GCSE, advanced subsidiary (AS) and advanced (A) levels.
“As the UK’s largest award body, offering both academic and vocationally recognised qualifications, we are proud to be presenting the Outstanding Pearson Learner Awards in Zambia for the first time.
“At the core of everything we do is the desire to make a measurable impact on improving people’s lives through learning,” Ms Hayes said.
Among Zambian top students who received this year’s outstanding learner awards from Pearson, whose motto is ‘Always learning’, was Thandiwe Karen Mwanza (Chengelo School), highest subject mark in Africa: Edexcel GCSE religious studies; Chimuka Muleya (David Kaunda Technical High School), highest subject mark in Zambia: Edexcel International AS level mathematics; and Musonda Moonga (David Kaunda Technical High School), highest subject mark in Zambia: Edexcel International A level chemistry.
Such efforts in the education sector at an international level by the UK’s largest award-giving body, Pearson, are commendable. It was the first time that the awards ceremony was held in Zambia. This should be a great opportunity for all stakeholders in education to take an interest and start thinking, planning and working together on the various ways of motivating students, especially in tertiary institutions.
Also, both recipients and non-recipients of the awards should now be motivated to excel in the universities and colleges where they will be enrolled after successfully completing their studies at GCSE, AS and A levels, among others. They should go to the next level knowing that all their efforts in the academic world are for the good of their well-being and that of the communities where they live, as well as for the socio-economic development of the country.
What should be borne in the minds of teachers, parents and everyone concerned is that while motivating learners is not an easy task, the rewards are more than worth it. Motivated students are more excited to learn and participate in various programmes.
While some students are self-motivated, with a natural liking for engaging in the learning process, others do not have the natural drive to learn. It takes a great teacher (or lecturer) to make learning fun and inspire everyone to reach one’s full potential.
A question may be posed: does giving rewards encourage students? Of course, answers will vary. But remember that, being humans, students also need a reward for their good deeds and hard work.