Caught in the Competition Web

I do not like school competitions. I never have and never will. I see no sense in a panel of judges comparing children’s work and declaring one of them to be the best. As far as I am concerned, there is no “best” in school, there are several “greats” or “goods.”

However, my dislike for competitions did not save me from getting entangled in the competition web. I spent several long hours preparing you for various competitions and even longer hours discussing rules, criteria, and results with the parent population. As a result, we have a collection of certificates you don’t even look at.

You were the first to put your foot down and say no to competitions. I Hand saying NOcame to my senses much later, after forcing you to take part in two more and watching the smile disappear from your face completely.

Our education system is literally saturated with competitions—singing, dancing, poster making, cooking without fire, science models, clay modeling, storytelling, debate, collage making, poster making—you name it and you have it. Even national holidays are not spared and are celebrated with competitions. To make matters worse, third-party companies partner with schools to organize more competitions and Olympiads. A majority of these competitions are not related in any way to the concept the child is trying to grasp at the time. And to make matters worse, the parent population is more involved in these competitions than the children. They are expected to be as it is believed to make the children happy.

So, why did I make you participate in all those competitions?

  • I thought that the prizes, certificates, and applause would boost your self-esteem.
  • I thought that the experience would be educational and would teach you skills even it did not result in a prize, certificate, or applause.
  • I thought that you will never have stage fear if you take part in competitions.
  • I thought that it would make you happy.

I no longer think so, and here are my reasons.

The Applause

PrizesThe prize, the applause, and the certificate—these are sugar coated pills that one can easily get addicted to. Worse still, one could end up thinking that one’s work is no good if it does not receive the applause of others. When the applause stops, one wouldn’t know what to do with oneself—like all the forgotten stars.

If you are incapable of judging, analyzing, criticizing, and applauding your own work, you must not take part in any competition.

Learning Skills

Unless used as teaching tools, competitions hardly teach you anything. Skills are developed over a period of several years, and you need to practice long and hard, learning as you go, to hone them. A few hours of practice for a competition that gives you three minutes to perform cannot be expected to teach any skills.

Self-esteem

Taking part in competitions does not boost your self-esteem. In fact, if Self-esteemyou don’t already have enough self-esteem, losing a competition will give you temporary depression while winning it will make you feel as if you have achieved it all and have nothing else to learn.

Self-esteem is an inexhaustible fountain that springs from deep within, a quiet understanding of who you are and a total acceptance of yourself as a wonderful human being.

Stage Fright

Competitions do little to help people get rid of their stage fright.

stage frightStage fear plagues even seasoned speakers and celebrities and the only way to overcome it is to speak in public—everyday and if possible, several times per day. I would suggest Toastmasters to people who want to chuck their stage fright.

 

Happiness

I do not deny that some children feel happy when their parents prepare them for competitions or participate in competitions with them. But competition is not every child’s cup of tea.

If participating in competitions really makes you happy, I don’t think you would have said no to them. You are happier when we are out jogging or cycling together or playing Candy Crush Saga together or feeding the chooks or gardening together or even reading together. Why, there are dozens of things that make you happy, and right now, competitions are not in the list.

It is high time I stop making decisions for you, especially as you are capable of making them on your own. I will be very interested to see if you will take part in any of your school competitions next year.

Having said all that, I feel it is time for the big disclaimer.

I am not shouting “Down with Competitions.” I do understand the importance of competition, especially in the business and sports worlds. Competition laws exist so that consumers can get the best products and services; and as for sports, it is all about competing, winning, and losing. This post is just a mild protest against the saturation of the education system with competition as I feel it defeats one of the major purposes of going to school—learning.

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11 thoughts on “Caught in the Competition Web

  1. Pingback: School Stories: A Frustrated Parent | Scribbles

  2. I agree with you. In-fact in our times it was competition between kids parents hardly bothered. But these days parents end up competing. I have seen parents flaunting their kids win. If friend’s kid won one particular competition then the other parent is under pressure. I have heard parents uttering, I should make up for this loss my making my kid win in coming competition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sorry for my late response, Megha. You are right, but it is the education system that makes parents react in this way. Parents naturally want the best for their kids and feel their kids will lose out if they do not take part in and win competitions and score high marks. And subconsciously, most parents want this for their kids.

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  3. I remember when I was in school and I used to watch students go up and get awards for doing the best in certain subjects..it was heartbreaking at times. Competitions can breed inequality. For instance, most students who did win awards for top marks had access to tutors from their parents – something not everyone (including myself) could afford. There were also awards for being a part of the “most clubs/activities”, again this was discouraging because although some individuals were members of many clubs they didn’t contribute as members. Finally, we had a dance competition one year and our team lost to a professional dance group that had years of training from a dancing school. We won the following year, which felt amazing but the hostility from the losing team (ironically the same group that won the year before) was ridiculous and escalated into bitterness. It’s really unfortunate.

    Great piece! It’s honestly great fruit for thought. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very Well written Sonia. Today’s education system does bombard kids with unnecessary competitions. I have seen kids resorting to incorrect behavior to be the best in so called “competition”. An example is kids from my niece’s class (grade 9) steal assignments and projects, change the name of the preparer and put their own name instead. Or at times, if they do not succeed in doing so, they tare off the best assignments. I mean, this is unbelievable, the competition is doing exactly the opposite of what is it supposed to do. I am sure, this competition culture must have evolved to bring out the best in kid/individual but this is actually bringing out the worst! Having said that, some amount of competition (comparison can be used as a mild alternative) must exist so that we know where we stand. At times, it helps us be rooted :). I loved your disclaimer in the end!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I agree with a lot of what you have written Sonia. Funny how through our teacher training courses we’ve trained teachers to focus on ‘co-operative learning ‘ modules and all that is forgotten when competitions reveal their ugly fangs and pit children against each other.

    Liked by 1 person

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