Education should not be a competition

From my professional experience and what I recall from my years as a student, I came to think that there is a flaw in the educational system, at least in the education such the one I've received and for the field I'm working in.

I think that the weight of competition during years as student is too heavy and prejudicial to an appropriate preparation to work. I surely can't say teachers explicitly encourage competition, but the unavoidable evaluation system and the consequences of a low ranking on the pursuit of one's studies and career is just overwhelming. Consequently, classmates implicitly become concurrents to beat and personal ranking becomes the goal to achieve rather than learning to be competent at a task in the context of a team work.

Once graduated, the goal suddenly changes radically. It's not any more about winning personnaly, it's about satisfying a customer's request or making a company's vision a reality. Colleagues are not opponents to fight against but a team to support and to be supported by to achieve these goals. It looks natural to me it takes time to switch between these two mindsets, even more if it isn't stressed out by anyone around.

I remember having to fulfill team projects during my scolarity. This goes toward simulating a real work environment for sure, but is rather shy. These projects were short, small; the team was small too; and the result had a limited impact on the global evaluation. In the end the most competent members of the team were doing most of the job, happy to be undisturbed by less competent ones who were thanksfully taking advantage of the leaders. Not really the kind of experience preparing for what I see now, many years later, as an efficient team member.

What could be done about it ? My opinion isn't supported by any experience or knowledge in the education field. I'll try anyway, this article is in the pub talks category after all. I'm wondering how applying evaluation at class level rather than individual would affect the ability of a newly graduated individual to become an efficient team member. I mean, the evaluation of each one would be replaced by something like the average of everyone's evaluation in the same class. For one to pass the year, the whole class must pass the year. Like in a company, all in the same boat, the success of the individual is defined by the success of the group. Like in a company, the success of the project comes from the cooperation of individuals.

Why do I expect from such a global evaluation system ? Members of the group naturally more performant than others would need to help less performant ones to improve their own evaluation. They would have to learn to become competent in human relation too in order to teach efficiently, something that I recall as an often missing trait from the 'little geniuses'. Doing so, they would also learn to become better leaders, a role that they will probably have to endorse later in their career due to their innate technical abilities. On the teacher side that would also probably alleviate some of the burden of teaching to the less performant members of the class.

Those less performant members would in exchange benefit from that extra support. Individuals all have their own way of learning, even if the official teacher's method doesn't make sense to one individual, a classmate may have a different way to explain that would work better for that individual and may just need a bit of incentive to take the role of the teacher. I remember this vividly as I've been asked once in middle school by my math teacher to explain at her place a concept to my classmates, completely obtuse to her explanation. Those individuals in need for help would also be less tempted to give up if they felt supported by their classmates, something I also recall from my personal experience. That would surely go toward more united individuals in general, and help go against the individualism that plagues our societies.

On the other hand, I can also imagine some of the problems such a system would create. I have no idea what managing the logistic of a whole class not passing the year would be. And the students would need time when and space where to be able to support each other. Or, some may not understand the goal of such a system and may feel injustice in their competences not being recognize at their real value due to others. The burden of managing human relations is also probably too heavy for youngsters. Such a system maybe would work better at university level, when the students are more mature and nearer to discover the sad truth of what it is to work in a company. Also, it would really work only with heteregeneous class, but external pressures would certainly appear for the best students to gather in classes where their evaluation wouldn't be impeded by others.

In conclusion, I don't really know what could be done but I believe there is something to do at the educational level to help building individuals more competent and efficient as team members in their later career, individuals focusing more on the whole team effort toward the project success than their personal performance.

in All, Pub talk,
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