What is the role of competition in education?

By Oluseyi Bolarinwa. Oluseyi is a teacher at Peace International College, Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.

From time immemorial, competition has been a recurring decimal in this world. It has permeated through virtually all aspects of human life, be it sports, economy, politics or technology. Even among other living beings, competition is present. It means different things to different people as some see it as a mere contest, rivalry, a do-or-die affair, or an attempt to exhibit a survival of the fittest situation. Competition may pit different entities against one another, be it individuals, football clubs, societies, kingdoms, nations. It is significant to note that competition may be organised for one reason or the other, or covert in nature, meaning instincts within human beings to outshine and outdo one another. In this regard, whichever aspect of life competition takes place or is organised, it will surely keep everyone involved in shape for what lies ahead. Thus, its role in education cannot be swept under the carpet. It is highly important and necessary.

Competition and education (be it formal or informal) have enjoyed a symbiotic relationship from a very long time. They both strive to ensure that students are spurred into action so as to pursue excellence in all circumstances. It may certainly seem unfair in that competition does not take into consideration the peculiar strengths and weaknesses of each competitor/student. However, competition remains highly objective compared to other methods (such as written exams and oral interviews) that are being used to test or measure the mental capability of students which may be subjective. Competition is objective because your score depends on how good you are and your performance level, not on how popular you are or how much the judges or organisers like you. It depends on the quality of your work or delivery and not on the handsomeness of your face.

Competition in education which may be presented in different forms such as quizzes, debate competitions, spelling bee competitions, science and technology competitions, etc. also comes with rewards to deserving students/winners at the end. By giving various prizes to competitors, it is an avenue to inspire the students to be more diligent in their studies. It is also a way of encouraging the competitors not to relent but to put in more effort next time and other students to emulate the best among the competitors. Furthermore, it also creates an avenue for school administrators, educationists and teachers alike to sort out the best among their students and to discover the peculiar attributes of each of their students; in short, to know areas or things that each of them is good at, as different students will definitely be good at different things.

Competitions are one of, if not the most reliable yardstick to test students’ level of intelligence and brilliance. In the course of competing, equal chance is given to each student participating to do what they know how to do best. To a very large extent, its role in education is to ensure that students are efficient and make optimal use of their God-given talents. It is a well-known fact that competition will bring up a challenging situation in which students will be tested to try their best not only to surmount it but to do it in a way that will the best among the rest. Therefore, it would make the students to put in nothing short of their best on display. There is no better way you can know how

good/excellent you are in a particular aspect or area unless you are tested against others who are equally good. Competition gives room for such to happen. It avails students the opportunity to flex their academic muscles with one another to ascertain their level of brilliance and intelligence.

There are life challenging issues which are not taught in any classroom in the world but which an individual may later encounter in future; competition in educational setting could actually be used to prepare students’ minds on how to react and what to do when prevailing situations at that period look overwhelming. It can provide an experience from which one can draw inspiration to overcome future challenges. In short, it can strengthen and enhance students’ problem-solving skills.

Have you ever thought of anyone who succeeds in anything in this choking world on a stroll or without having to face fierce competition from some quarters? The answer to that to the best of my knowledge is absolutely no. If there is no competition in any aspect of this life (education specifically), there will not be innovation and generation of new ideas, improvement, efficiency, excellence, etc., since there is nothing to challenge you to reach your optimum level. Not only that, the excitement, intrigue and unpredictability won’t be there. When your rivals/competitors are close to your heels you won’t have the time to get complacent/over-relaxed, since you do not plan on losing out completely in this highly competitive world.

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