Exam is near once again. Many parents are busy helping their children to prepare for exam. Some are stress out and some are taking it easy, all depends on the expectation of the parents and children. For children who score below the school average, many parents are trying their very best to improve their grades. For those who are at the median, parents strive to do better. And there are the high-achievers, whose parents will count every mark so that their children can improve or maintain their school position.
No matter how we view it, this pressure comes from their peers because the school assessment is based on the cohort. Peer competitions set in because ranking is based on the marks they score during the exams. Due to these competitions, children are driven to outperform their peers. For below average children, once they get to the median of cohort, they would want to continue to improve. Their goals will get higher. It might be to get into the top 3 classes, then top class, then top 10, then top student, it goes on and on. Even some high achievers in lower primary, will aim to get through the GEP Screening Test and then the GEP Selection Test. Once they get into GEP, a whole new level of competition will surface. The cycle never ends. The pressure will always be there. Weaker students are pressure to improve; stronger students are pressure to sustain. Even among kids, they usually compare based on their exam marks or which classes they are in.
Such competitiveness if channeled in the right way can also be very rewarding. Instead of trying to excel due to peer competition, it might be more constructive, if parents encourage their children to self-compete.
Who is to say that kids are not doing well for not scoring above the school average, if they have improved tremendously from their last result? In my child’s school, there is this “Best Progressive Award” for each class at the end of the year, where students with the greatest improvement from SA1 to SA2 are given the award. These students are given these awards along side with those who are top in the respective class and their parents are encourage to go up on stage with them to received the award. I personally think this is the best award that the school is giving out.
Encouraging a child to self-compete can actually help to reduce these unnecessary peers’ competition stresses for both parents and child. They do not have to worry about how their peers is doing but focusing on trying their very best to achieve the best result they can. Each child no matter what their ability or potential is can always strive to improve the score. Every student’s goal is to keep improving their score each SA and push their own limits.
For example, if they have the ability to score 85 in Math, then the next SA they should strive to get a score that is higher than 85. And, if they score 60 for their Math, they can try to aim for 65 the next round. In such manner, they can continue to challenge themselves to do better rather than be stress out by the benchmark set by their peers.
Some kids are just not capable of scoring perfect score like others, rather than be “labeled” as weak in comparison to their peers; adopting self-competition can help the child to slowly improve their results and self-esteem. I know of parents who are just relief if their kids can pass their Chinese rather than score an A*.
Without emphasizing on peer competition, students are also more willing to share resources in high competition environment. This helps to strengthen their character and friendships with fellow classmates in the long run. As such, there are many benefits to consider teaching our kids to self-compete rather than be suck into the peer’s competition.