Be competent not competitive when it comes to university and tertiary education

Recently, I came across an opinion piece by Mr Willard Dix on Forbes, that discusses the need to be competent not competitive when it comes to university and tertiary education.

Mr Dix stresses that we need to remember that “education and access to it are not zero-sum games”. Although access can be difficult and access to particular institutions can be nearly impossible, education itself is infinitely malleable and distributable.

However, day after day, across all media and in many different arenas, we are bombarded by admonitions to be “excellent”, “high achievers” and other variations on the theme of being “perfect”. We are constantly told that if you’re going to be successful, you have to adopt a “winning” attitude.

And yet, in the same vein, we see stories of students at competitive schools committing suicide or overloading themselves with academic credits and extracurricular activities, essentially living a nightmarish existence, just to get into their “dream” college. The pressure to excel is a punishing one and can bring about devastating effects.

Thus, uncoupling education and even the idea of success from the need to “win” might be a good first step. Teachers should help their students cultivate and “adequacy mindset”. Instead of buying into a “win at all costs” outlook to achieve success, teachers and parents should help students recognise that being good enough is more than enough. Having this mindset can actually help students inhabit their educations and their lives more fully – students will be able to truly appreciate and enjoy learning and not feel overwhelmed by the pressure to excel.

In my opinion, there is a fundamental difference between succeeding and winning. We definitely need to inculcate in our students that being competent is already a form of success. Even though it sounds cliched, there is truth in the saying that students should find the joy in learning, and not see it as a means to an end. We as educators, thus have a role in helping them to find that joy.

If you want to read more of Mr Willard Dix’s opinion piece, click the following link:


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