Is Competition Healthy In Schools?

This hot potato is something that is often in the news and on the topic boards at parents evening – is competition in schools healthy for children? It has divided opinion for years and probably will continue to do so. Some argue that it encourages children to try their hardest and reap the rewards, as in life you have to work hard in the fiercely competitive world. However other quite rightly argue that it can destroy a young child self-esteem and can cause them to experience feelings of failure at a very young age.

Bad

Is there such a thing as ‘healthy’ competition? Is telling a child that they aren’t good enough, that they must compete to triumph over others right? Should we instilling such aggression to these young and vulnerable mind at such an early age? Does winning build character? Many argue not. Competition can lead to children envying others, the winners being celebrated and the loser being dismissed – that’s all well and good if your child is a winner, but how would you feel if your child was upset about the fact that they kept losing?

Should we be focusing our energy on making cooperation the new competition? It helps children to communicate effectively with one another, to help develop and cherish all different types of skills of individuals. To accept those who are different from themselves and to see the value of each person. There is already enough opportunities in life before education that give disappointment to people, jobs, competitions, work, relationships – should we give them a bubble of happiness as a child?

“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further, but co-operation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”
The late Franklin D. Roosevelt, former President of the United States

Good

Healthy competition motivates kids to do their best – not just good enough. When children compete, do they start to become inquisitive, research independently and start to think for themselves? We will have a generation that will strive to do more than is required. These abilities prepare children for future situations – we all know the big wide world out there and surely the better equipped we make our children in school it will help their development after education. Whether it’s applying to university, seeking a promotion, or love, the ability to be competitive will give them an important edge that is needed in today’s society – its dog eat dog.

Competition can be healthy when it provides feedback to kids about their performance and improvement, when winning isn’t just about the engraved glass award they receive on stage after but it is the valuable lessons that need to be taken away from competition. That way, win or lose, children will learn to grow and in turn become better prepared for life, which (like competition) provides never ending opportunities to play well with others and treat opponents with love and respect. In a supportive and loving environment, children can be taught that failure is  part f life and you don’t have to lose self-esteem or self-worth, here are the strategies on how to cope with life’s put downs – isn’t that preparing our children for life better than any maths equation?

Competition can be a double-edged sword, for children and adults but if you are promoting positive values under the right conditions they can be very beneficial, however, it only takes a negative environment to develop unhealthy ways of competing against others. If you are concerned about your child’s school and what their outlook is on competition then perhaps you should try and make an appointment to speak to their teacher, bring it up at the next parents evening/open day or even just check their website they might have ethos up online!