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Pros and Cons of Competition in Our Schools

written by: Margie • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/17/2012

Competition in schools today is much different than it was years ago. This article looks at the positive and negative aspects of fostering competition in our schools.

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    Many people have very strong views on competition in schools.Some think that it’s bad, that it robs students’ self-esteem and increases their level of anxiety about their education. Then there are those who believe that it is not only beneficial to students, but vital to their overall education. However, if you look closely and think it through, you will probably find that competition in schools has both positive and negative aspects.

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    The Pros

    1. Better/More Prepared Teachers

    Educators who teach in highly competitive schools may be better prepared for their days teaching. They may spend more time planning lessons, researching new teaching strategies and methodologies, and attending professional development workshops.

    School systems or schools in the same system that are competitive with each other may use better hiring practices and employ higher-quality teachers. There has been a study done on the effect of competition in schools and “the results, while far from conclusive, suggest that competition raises teacher quality and improves the overall quality of education." (Does Public School Competition Affect Teacher Quality?)

    2. More Motivated Students

    Nothing can get my students going like a game or contest.Sometimes, having kids compete against each other makes them try harder to succeed. If kids are trying and working harder, the extra effort is seen in improved grades and standardized test scores.

    3. More Confident Students and Teachers

    A natural by-product of success is confidence. If competition leads to success, then this may very well boost the confidence of students and teachers alike.

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    The Cons

    1. Stressed-Out Kids

    Simply put, some competition is good, but too much is bad. Too much competition can lead to stressed-out students. The negative impact of stress on children has been well-documented and is huge cause for concern among teachers and parents alike.

    2. Loss of Recess and Free Time

    Competition among schools and school districts has led some school leaders to find ways to increase instructional time. In many places this has meant less time for children, even very young children, to have time to just play and take a break from the rigors of the academic world. Children, just like adults, need time during the day to unwind and interact socially with their peers. Too much competition in schools has led to a decrease in the time allotted for this, at the expense of our students.

    3. Loss of Arts Programs

    Along with cutting out time for recess and unstructured play, many systems are opting to do away with arts programs in schools. Although there is sometimes a financial aspect tied to cutting these programs, some are being cut in favor of more academic time. If they are not being cut be the school system, some parents insist their children take academic classes and forego arts programs so that they can keep up in the highly competitive environment many of our schools now have.

    Of course, a very valid argument is that school is a place for academics. I am not suggesting otherwise, but many students reap huge benefits from participating in arts programs, such as increased self-esteem and enjoyment of school.

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    Balance

    In the end, it is important to remember that competition is not all good, nor is it all bad. When the correct balance is struck, competition is a healthy part of life that helps us to succeed. But, the correct balance must be struck. It is not necessary, nor appropriate for students to feel like they must be the best at everything, and as teachers we must be sure our students learn this essential lesson.

Competition In Our Schools

A 4-part-series focusing on competition in our schools today. This series will look at teaching in a competitive environment, the effects of high-stakes testing, and the influence of competition on students and teachers.
  1. How to Succeed When You're Teaching a Competitive Environment
  2. How to Help Students Succeed on Standardized Tests
  3. Pros and Cons of Competition in Our Schools
  4. A Teacher's Guide to Dealing With Cheating

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