Whether is it the elections, Olympics or to be top in class, competition is everywhere. But is it a good thing for students? Is it something we should be imparting in them? This topic has been widely discussed over the years and has garnered divided opinions. Some claim that competition encourages students to excel in our furiously competitive world where we compete for jobs (here’s how to use a video resume to stand out) and housing. Others suggest that it can lower their self-confidence. This article discusses the good and bad of competition for students and whether we should have them.
Singapore has always been a high educational achiever. When I was still a student, I recalled my teachers emphasising rote learning, which led to lengthy study hours. Rote learning and memorisation were somehow the known formula to success in examinations. Having one of the best education systems globally, students in Singapore also must cope with a considerable amount of education stress which may be contributed by the pressure to perform well.
Recently, the Ministry of Education announced several changes in the study curriculum to ease the pressure on students. Some of them would include reducing the number of examinations and focus grading on students’ regular homework. I guess it is an excellent initiative to cultivate the spirit of learning, especially at a younger age and reduce the parental pressure on them. These changes serve as a good reminder that learning should not be a competition.
We learnt that competition could be good and healthy. That competition spurs us to better ourselves and unleash our inner potential. But is there such a thing as healthy competition? Students often find themselves utterly dejected and demoralised when they are constantly told that they don’t fare as well as their peers. It becomes ingrained that he must outdo what their peers are doing to come out on top. Such a mindset can sometimes make the pressure from competition overwhelming. Students in their younger age may not be able to cope with such stress.
Besides, having too much emphasis on coming on top of the competition may take away students’ drive for learning. Learning in classrooms can be meaningful, rewarding and even fun. Too much focus on competition and class standing can take all of that away. While top students are heralded, other students have to admit that they are not as competent. Stress can affect their mental health and well-being.
During my university days, I had friends who did not join any extracurricular activities. They wanted to devote all their time towards getting the top GPA and doing internships (why internship can kickstart your career) – running the rat race. Such mentality was probably the result of stress from academic competition amongst peers, which made them decide to cut back on activities related to their interests. In the long run, such choices will lead to an unbalanced life, detrimental to mental health and well-being.
Why is Competition Necessary?
Despite the detrimental effects of competition on students, we ought to recognise that it has its upsides as well. When competition is played out appropriately, it can spur students to perform their best and not settle for mediocracy. With competition, they may become more eager to learn, hence arousing their curiosity.
Students may also develop a stronger drive to excel in their studies. Such instances can also allow them to work collaboratively with their peers. Developing these competencies can better equip them for the real world in the future. Whether getting into university, securing a job, or even starting your own business, having a competitive nature is an excellent trait to succeed in whatever one has set out to achieve.
It is also in the spirit of competition that allows students to discover their weaknesses and strengths. When encountering setbacks, it will enable them to learn how to manage them and address any challenges they face. Even in preschool, children can find what incentivises them and use them to push themselves forward. As the contest on examinations and tests continue, let us not forget that having competition is beneficial to their development.
Growing up, I remember how stressful it was knowing that I had to perform well in my studies. Being meticulous and forward-thinking, I figured my own ‘system’ to study and ensuring that I am well prepared for every test and examination. It was my way of making sure I did my best as a student. It might be due to the competitive nature of the education system that moulded me this way. But I’m glad I started cultivating this trait when I was younger as I realised that it was something that my work superiors wanted from their employees.
Besides academic competition, I also represented my school in competitive sports. I recalled always having the pressure to perform as well. I guess such pressure follows you everywhere. Don’t we feel the pressure to deliver our best at work? Despite the stress, such competitions taught me important values and lessons like teamwork and sportsmanship.
Though many argue that competition can give students a lot of stress, students need to learn to deal with it – and better sooner than later. Unfortunately, we cannot avoid stress. Students need to know how to handle it. Everyone has their way of handling pressure, remaining calm and collected and performing under pressure.
At this point, we realise that competition is like a double-edged sword – it can promote positive values under the correct settings but create toxic environments under the wrong ones. It is essential parents and teachers impart invaluable lessons from competitions. Whether it is winning or losing, students will grow, learn and be ready for the many challenges that life will throw their way.
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