The life blood of Industry, demonising competition in education

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

"Much education literature demonises the use of competition in educational settings as a destructive force (Kohn, 1986; Johnson & Johnston, 1989). Competition however, is omnipresent in life where researchers show, through empirical studies, that education and educators ought to configure learning environments in such a manner as to teach students how to both compete and cooperate (Lam, Yim, Law and Cheung, 2004; Fulop 2002; Carnevale & Probst, 1997) in preparation for life."

Competition is life

“Competition is an inevitable concomitant of social life. It is highly important therefore that teachers in schools have a clear understanding about it, be able to handle and influence competitive processes and prepare students for competitions in life and teach them how to compete while keeping themselves to implicit and explicit rules of competition and how to cope with the emotional consequences of competition e.g. how to win and lose gracefully and how to use both to help self-improvement rather than for instance destruction of others”. (Fulop, 2002)

Arguably, significant evidence has emerged that shows that the controversial changes made to New Zealand’s education system, through the manner in which NCEA in 2002-2004 was introduced (not as it was written), has proven long term societal implications which are playing out now. NCEA, in favour of standards based qualification over normative performance, in 2002 to 2004, removed competitive based performance for participation awards. At a point in their lives where developing social and developmental traits, based on competitively, were removed. Over a decade on,  New Zealand is now plummeting down the Global Innovation Index, OECD and education rankings. Industry and tertiary continue to sound alarms, for New Zealand's well-being, with an increasingly large demographic of seriously under-prepared pool of secondary school students. They cite a lack of thinking, digital, innovation skills and an absent work attitude (as a by-product of NCEA's design).

With a contrast in opinion on should or how should education should integrate competition (or not) into an NCEA programme that does not award for it?

Relying upon dairy and tourism, is certainly risky business. Accordingly, how should the normative perceptions of competition, in education, now be changed as a result of an urgent need for thinkers, skill development, innovation and or digital competitiveness of prime concern?

With this lacking, how should learning goals, schools, education and or digital environments, be constructed to include various forms of competition in order to influence how students psychologically develop and how they interact to achieve long term outcomes for New Zealand? 

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