Voices

Enforced education the worst motivator in learning

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Ee Teck Ee

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Published: 4:02 AM, August 22, 2013
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Professor K Ranga Krishnan is right that “Understanding motivation — and apathy — is key to education” (Aug 16). Motivation is key to every undertaking in life. It is the mental fuel, just as sugar and fat are the physical fuels that propel us forward.

The worst kind of motivation is enforced motivation.

Observe a pupil who dislikes second language but has to study it. Listen to a child tapping listlessly on the ivory keys because her tiger mother is within hearing distance.

Open one’s ears to a father labouring day after day not because he likes his job but because he has mouths to feed. Better still, watch the life of someone who is faithful to a spouse he does not love but dare not divorce. Such people are motivated, but they live in hell.

Let someone do what he enjoys and is good at, and it is impossible to wipe the smile off his face. Innate motivation is like an engine in a soaring rocket. External motivation is like the engine of a plane carrying a rocket in its undercarriage.

On the other hand, although we may not be able to choose the thing we love, very often, we better love the thing chosen for us.

A pupil may not want to be a mathematician, but to live in a modern society, some knowledge of mathematics is essential.

I dislike the diet my doctor prescribed for me, but do I have a choice? Now, I am starting to enjoy it. I may yet live to 100 if I am willing to give up those foods that motivated me to want to live to 100.

We cannot always let pupils, especially younger ones, choose only whatever they like to study. What if they choose not to study anything, or to study something that is unprofitable or even harmful?

Being young, have they enough information to choose from, as well as sufficient wisdom to make the right choice? U-turns can be costly. Many subjects can be unappealing until one is acquainted with the subject and, often, only after one has surmounted a few hurdles in learning it.

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