We live in societies where the culture of competition exists everywhere and it is no more evident than in education. Schooling has become big business and learning is competitive. At an international level, we rank education systems and encourage them to ‘beat the best’. At a local level, there is a growing demand for coaching and tutoring clinics.
Competition is not a 21st century skill. Collaboration is. So how long do we allow ourselves and others to define schooling as a ‘race to the top’; as a means of separating winners from losers; where measurable achievement is the most valid measure of a student’s work and their worth?
Black and Wiliam reflected that the practice of assessment had as its primary purpose competition rather than personal improvement. This was highlighted recently by former federal Labor leader Mark Latham when he called the decision to replace exams with tasks at selective high school, Hurlstone Agricultural as ‘crazy and a soft-approach’. This view still dominates public opinion and it plays a significant part in undermining confidence in teachers. It also diminishes the value of collaboration in the process of learning.
The competitive nature of schooling only ever guarantees success for some not success for all. Successful change today has to as Michael Fullan says come about through ‘collaborative competition’. Notice that collaboration comes before competition.
Michael describes this as the ‘moral version’ of the Olympics where doing your best isn’t about surpassing others but spurring others to do their best. When teachers learn, students learn and when school communities learn, systems learn and so on. It is the flywheel in motion.
Samsung has captured the spirit of collaborative competition with their latest ad campaign – We are greater than I.