Monetary Incentives to Increase School Attendance

With dwindling attendance, schools have been trying different tricks to keep children in school. In India and in many parts of the developing world, the classic draw used to be free lunches. In the southern state of Tamilnadu, the state government came up with an innovative scheme of providing one free egg per school day to every child enrolled in government schools or other government supported schools. The purpose of this innovative program was to not only address issues of hunger and malnourishment, but also increase attendance in schools (there has been other unintended consequences, such as the impact on the supply and demand aspects of eggs and poultry). Certain incentives such as free food, which includes access to special foods such as eggs or meat, free school uniforms and books or transportation to and from school, and separate restrooms for girls and boys have said to increase attendance significantly especially in rural areas and in other impoverished areas in the developing world.

Recently, another incentive based system has been introduced to induce children to attend school–money. Yes, money, how about that. The old moolah or dollar works pretty good apparently. Some schools in India have started handing 1 rupee a day (approximately 40 Indian Rupees = 1 USD) to children for regularly attending classes. Increase in attendance means more money. If there are 200 days in a school year, a kid can make 200 Indian rupees (roughly 5 dollars), which they remit as tuition fees or use the money to other school supplies. In the Indian case, kids are paid in cash, in the US, money collects in a savings account that students can use as a form of voucher to pay for various educational services.

Although this program is lauded in certain circles, it has encountered criticism from opponents who believe that pure monetary motivation should not guide student interest in attending school. Besides, students might attend class just to make a buck and not really get involved in their studies (the age-old problem of physically present, but mentally absent). In addition, schools could face the problem of sick children showing up in school, which can generate a public health situation. Either way, this phenomenon seems to be catching-on in different parts of the world, variations of monetary incentives to achieve academic advancement. Some argue that it is very similar to getting a scholarship to go to school. After all, colleges in the US use scholarships as a tool to recruit students to various sports programs. So, why not use money to encourage participation? Your thoughts?