Paying students for exam success

There was a really interesting article in this weeks Economist, entitled ‘Satchel, Uniform, Bonus’ which has set me thinking.

As a father of teenage children I know how motivating the prospect of cash can be. I recall a school friend being incentivised to pass their GCSE’s by their parent paying them £10 per pass. Quite some carrot for a cash strapped 16 year old, I can tell you.

Anyway, this leads me onto the article which considered what might happen if we started paying students directly for performance. Cash payments reward good exam results immediately, whereas the prospect of a better job in say five years time has little meaning for the student.

Some interesting research has been conducted in Israel which shows that financial incentives increased the number of students completing their school leaving certificate by one third, but only for girls who needed to do only a little more to graduate. Research in the USA highlighted that students read more if they are paid $2 per book (subject to passing a comprehension test).

Research seems to indicate that it is least effective in the target groups that probably need it most, e.g. poor and disadvantaged students. It does seem like a good idea however, and rather than ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ it strikes me that in essence this is a good idea, and something we should investigate further in the UK.

”Can you help me with my homework?”

I took a sharp intake of breath last night, when my youngest son asked for help with his maths homework. There was a tap on my shoulder and the question that so many of us dread ”Dad, can you help me with my homework?”

Schools rightly say that children need to be able to work independently, but there are times when they just need some help – and like any caring parent, you feel that you should be able to provide this support. I found myself saying ”it’s not like it was in my day” – hold on a minute, isn’t that what my father said too?

Even when you can provide help, it somehow ends up as an argument – hold on, maybe that’s just our family. I can quite understand how any parent trying to teach their offspring to drive is also doomed to failure.

All of this isn’t surprising really, when you consider the time expired since we left full time education, let alone changes to the Curriculum in the meantime. Those of you who can recognise my conundrum, will be unsurprised to hear that in a recent survey of 2,000 parents, five out of six parents were embarrassed to say that they struggle to help their children with homework.

So, where next? Well private tutoring can provide that one to one support when it’s required. But it’s not always practical to find a tutor when you need one, let alone get support at 6pm when the homework is due in at 9am the next day. We have been thinking hard about this, and are working hard on a new online tutoring website which will connect families and CRB checked tutors.

Tutorhub is currently being piloted with a group of families and tutors. If you are interested to learn more about how you can become part of this pilot, please feel free to contact me.

TutorHub Pilot

Just a quick blog post to say that our new web offer is being tested with parents and tutors, prior to be launched as a public beta.

This is a new and innovative offer to parents wanting to support their children’s learning out of school. We are testing the website with a group of Bristol-based parents and tutors. We are really pleased by the quality of feedback received and are adapting the offer around what our customers say they actually want.

I have been a close follower of Steve Blank’s work, and the whole lean start-up philosophy. What will result, is a customer offer that is much more customer focused and breaks the mould.

Exciting times.