The role of competition in education

By Anselm Ugwuja. Anselm is a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. **Shortlisted!

Competition according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is the act or process of trying to get or win something (such as prize or a higher level of success) that someone else is also trying to get or win. Academically, competition is seen as a scenario where students strive to win by being the smartest or fastest on an academic task. Education on the other hand, is the knowledge, skill and understanding that one gets from attending a school, college or university. Education without competition is baseless and can hamper developments and innovations.

Competition results in the invention of new ideas leading to innovations. Without competition, some of the principles and laws such as Charles’ law and Einstein’s theories that we have today and apply to our everyday activities would not have been propounded. This is found mostly among scholars in scientific research where they endeavour to see that they oppose and disagree with the ideas of their rivalries, so as to emerge on top. By doing so, a lot of things are discovered and invented, leading to more innovations, greater efficiency and productivity.

Also, competition strengthens students and gives them morale to do more, especially if prizes or trophies are involved. This is common in quiz competitions, essay competitions, debates and examinations. Students will be spurred by the rewards to work harder and come out with outstanding performance and better work. Although in every competition there must be a winner and a loser, as the winner struggles to maintain his or her position, the loser tries to improve on his or her areas of weaknesses so as to outperform the winner and gets to the top. This helps to minimize the problems of laziness, inefficient planning and fear of failures.

Competition is an avenue for students to showcase their talents and manifest the hidden skills which some do not know they possess. In dancing, singing, sport,

athletics and other extra-curricular activities, students put in effort trying to outwit others with great dexterity. Thus, many people find their careers through this. In students’ politics such as students’ union government, a healthy competition is observed as every participant tries to win the hearts of the populace. This increases the students’ knowledge of political matters and hence shapes their manner of approach. As a result, they acquire and develop the qualities of good leadership that will help them both in and outside the school environment.

I remember entering into a quiz competition with senior secondary one students when I was in senior secondary two. As we prepared and hoped to win, they were also gathering momentum, hoping to thrash us and belittle our rank as our seniors. This caused everybody to be active and we all read voraciously unlike our usual behaviour. Though we later conquered and took the honours, it was with difficulty.

As a necessary tool for survival, competition leads to the setting and completion of students’ goals. This can solve problems of depression, low self-esteem, a sense of guilt/crises and severe loss of personal productivity for not meeting up responsibilities or commitments among academia. In Nigeria today, to get into university after secondary school is like a civil war. Many students will be competing for the same course of which few persons are admitted. For instance, in 2014, about 65,000 candidates applied for admissions into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where I study. And as of that year, the maximum number of people the school wanted was about 7,000. In that case, candidates had no other choice rather that find their way into the school through fierce and rigorous competition. Thus, this encouraged active learning and increased motivation for more hard work.

Moreover, competition enhances teachers’ and students’ versatility in knowledge and makes them think more positively. Some schools lack qualified teachers because they are not in a competitive environment. Without competition amongst students, unqualified teachers will be able to impact wrong knowledge onto their students. But for the fact that students compete with one another and sometimes with teachers, the teacher cannot rest on their oars. Competition to this end encourages versatility and careful thought among the teachers and students. Teachers will research and make sure that they can tackle any question that may arise in the course of discharging their duties. Competition is the easiest way to bring out the best in us, acquire more knowledge and enhance understanding,

screen teachers in the schools to get rid of confused and unqualified ones and have the best ones retained.

If someone understands that one cannot pass an examination or perform some certain practicals/research, especially without the help of another student, one will be compelled to be independent especially after facing disappointment or squabbles with his/her co-students. The person will be challenged to show everyone that he or she can do it. The move for gender equality in 21st century is not without competition. Everybody wants to be equal in modern world after so much exposure to competition and education. The female gender has learnt through education that males are taking their birthright. This is obtainable in some African tradition where females are not allowed into some certain positions and to inherit anything from her family. Nowadays, they have been able to challenge this unfair treatment by competing with males in all situations.

Furthermore, competition builds teamwork. This is common mostly if there is inter-school competition: everybody is trying to defend their own school. Teamwork is created and hence, propels the school to a higher level by collective work that produces a better result. No parent wants their child to attend schools that do not perform well academically and socially. For this reason, different schools will be employing tactics to see that theirs remain the best. This helps the school to work as a team and therefore, fortifies the school with everything needed to make it complete. Then, schools without the requirements will be forced to do better leading to good schools around.

In summary, competition brings about connection and leads the competitor especially the winners to a better place. It helps one to meet up with the future challenges and prepares one to be able to wangle his or her way out of some certain trials. Since competition is part of every culture and since education transmits culture, it is inevitable to incorporate competition into education for maximum effect.

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