Competition is Great for Games, but Education is Not a Game

When I was in high school, I competed in any sport my school would or could offer. I loved the thrill of winning, of being first, or second, or third.

I enjoyed practicing different aspects of the various games. Often, the time spent in practice on strategy and technique made the difference between winning and losing.

As an adult, I continue to be competitive. I value hard work in the preparation to take on some challenge. The worst possible thing you can do is to doubt me, to think that I will be unable to accomplish some goal, or be able to do some seemingly impossible task. When you do that to me, I take it as a personal challenge.

Since I hate losing, with a passion, I am more than willing to make all of the sacrifices necessary in order to be successful, at whatever it is that you are convinced that I can not do. I’ve always been that way, aware that the only limitation on my ability is the one I myself place on myself, by having low expectations, instead of high expectations, high goals, and high levels of effort.

Now, what I have tried to do by telling you all this is to help you to understand that competition is great for games. It teaches that success or failure is directly related to the amount of effort you are willing to make towards achieving your full potential, and often, beyond the limits of your imagination.

However, when we begin to consider the application of a competition-minded approach to education, we make a huge mistake. You see, competition invariably means there will be winners, and losers.

Yet success in education is a lifetime-enabling, or lifetime-crippling proposition.

If you are a loser at the “game” of education, you are faced not only with a lifetime of lower socio-economic possibilities for yourself, but in the vast majority of cases, your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., by extension, will also be negatively affected..

One thing that we do as humans do is pass on socio-economic wealth (or poverty) from generation, to generation, to generation, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

Education, access to high-quality, aspirational education and life opportunities, is generally one of the few paths to upward mobility.

Having said that, we can easily see the negative consequences of any education system that puts its emphasis on competition for the fruits of the “education game” (for a few lucky people), rather than collaboration (for the good of many people).

Education is not a game, education is life itself.
That’s what John Dewey said, “Education is life itself”. However, if we make a game out out of it, then there will be winners, and there will be losers. Is there any hope?

There is hope, of course, that we will see the danger involved in competing for who has access to the best teachers, the best schools, the best opportunities. The dangers are numerous, with far-reaching consequences. If we are unwilling to lift one another up, to higher heights, to meet our human destiny together, then we will ultimately fail, as individuals. There can be no doubt about the inevitability of that fate, as a direct result of an emphasis on competition that leaves some of us as losers, and others, as “winners”. Let us hope for a better fate for humanity.

Hope, in the world of education can only have one name: Collaboration. Helping one another, sharing knowledge, sharing resources, sharing skills, sharing abilities, so that everyone is a winner.

However, as long as we are caught up in a world of competition-based education policies, that pits teacher against teacher, like the gladiators of ancient Rome, doomed to fight to the death, with one winner, enjoying life, wealth, health and freedom, while the other, the loser, remains only the dark nothingness of a miserable death, as long as this is the principle underpinning our education system(s) globally, then we are nothing more than barbarians, polite ones, civilized, yes, but barbarians in name and deed.

Cooperation and collaboration, instead of competition, offer education system(s) the world over a path toward the bright new day of a coexistence in which everyone can, and should, be a winner, in the greater game, the game of humanity.

The best education systems in the world today, whereever they may be found, in Europe, in Asia, in North America, all practice to a high degree, some form of collaboration.

That is collaboration from teacher to teacher, from discipline to discipline, from school to school, from city to city, from nation to nation.

If you ask me for just one example of what I am talking about, so you can examine it closely, I would name the International Baccalaureate. It is an education system that practices collaboration from teacher to teacher, from school to school, from city to city, from country to country.

The International Baccalaureate education system is a global phenomenon, present in over 140 countries, with over 900,000 students. The International Baccalaureate has delivered the highest quality education on the planet, consistently, year in and year out, over the past 40 years. If the IB were a country, it would rank number one (1), first in the world…over the past 40 years. Its record of consistency is unequaled by no other system in the world today. The International Baccalaureate is second to none, from a historical perspective. They’ve always been good…

Just how good is the International Baccalaureate?

Let me answer the question by drawing your attention to England. The British are getting ready to implement a system known as the “English Baccalaureate”, or EBacc, for short. When another country scraps its education system, and begins to emulate, attempts to replicate, what you are doing, you know you are doing something right.

Let me repeat what I just said. To do so, here I quote England’s Education Secretary, Michael Gove:

“The GCSE exam in England is going to be replaced in core subjects by a qualification called the English Baccalaureate Certificate.

A shake-up of the exam system, unveiled by Education Secretary Michael Gove, will mean a single end-of-course exam and one exam board for core subjects.

Pupils beginning secondary school this year will take the first new exams – in English, maths and sciences – in 2017.

Mr Gove said GCSEs were designed “for a different age and a different world“…(end of quote)

However, the International Baccalaureate, despite its unparalleled record of consistent, excellence in education, in all ages represented by the past forty years and the next forty years to come, is not a country.

Therefore, it should not be used as a proxy for a country, when we need to look at what the best individual countries are doing.

I have claimed that the best performing education systems are all practicing the same concept, namely: Collaboration. Where is my evidence? What specific countries can I name?

Let me name the countries which I point to as evidence: Finland, Singapore, China, Canada, etc.

That’s four countries, all four of them with top-performing education systems.

In these countries, teachers help teachers. They share Best Practices among themselves, from teacher to teacher, from school to school. In these education systems, competition is great, yes, but only for games.

As we can clearly see, for the greater “game of humanity”, collaboration is the guiding principle, and the unifying characteristic that makes each one of these countries indistinguishable from the other, yet clearly set apart from countries in which league tables, top 100 schools, or prizes are given out to the top performing schools.

In such an atmosphere, there is no incentive for one teacher to help another, for one school to help another, it’s all about me winning, and you losing. Competition of this sort, does damage to an entire country, inflicted upon the children who through no fault of their own, go to schools where the teachers do not have the same resources, or the same capabilities, or the same knowledge, techniques, strategies, and collaboration, as their more able peers…

Still, in the top performing schools, they are clearly convinced that “Competition is great for games, but when it comes to education, collaboration is the path toward success and prosperity for all of their children.

When it comes to education, everyone must be a winner, and that means only one thing: collaboration…


At most universities world-wide, future EFL teachers are required to write in an academic style. Essays, research papers, and theses are examples of the most important academic writing that the student-teacher (hereafter ST) does. Furthermore, when they become EFL teachers, it is quite possible that they will teach students wishing to study at undergraduate or postgraduate levels. However, there are few published, experiential accounts of how future EFL teachers are taught to do academic writing. In this article, I will attempt to fill that gap by sharing an account of an integrated, genre-based/process-writing experience in the Chilean context.

Click on the link below to get Teaching Academic Writing:


The International Baccalaureate [Kindle Edition]

The International Baccalaureate [Paperback]

The global search for high-quality education, embedded in high-performing education systems, has taken on mythical proportions, almost resembling the alchemists’ quest to turn common metals into gold.

It is my hope that the present day search for global education, equitable and providing equality of opportunity for all, shall not cease until the “gold” we seek, has been found.

I therefore dedicate this book to all the educators, researchers, parents and students the world over, who strive to achieve this elusive goal,high-quality education for all the citizens of the world.

In this endeavour, it is my belief that the International Baccalaureate merits a closer look, based on their more than 40 year history of delivering consistently excellent results.

I add that all of the reflections and views in this book are mine alone, unless otherwise noted, and can not be attributed to my employer or any other organization I am affiliated with, past or present. For any errors or oversights, I bear the complete responsibility.


Amazon Author Page: Thomas Jerome Baker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He is the Head of the English Department at Colegio Internacional SEK in Santiago, Chile.

He is the Co-Founder and Co-Organiser of EdCamp Santiago, free, participant-driven, democratic, conversation based professional development for teachers, by teachers. EdCamp Santiago 2012 was held at Universidad Mayor in Santiago.

Thomas is also a past member (2011-2012) of the Advisory Board for the International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL), where he also serves as a reviewer and as the HETL Ambassador for Chile.

Thomas enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. Thus far, he has written the following genres: romance, historical fiction, autobiographical, sports history/biography, and English Language Teaching. He has published a total of forty six (46) books overall.

The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family, his wife Gabriela, and his son, Thomas Jerome Baker, Jr.

Pinterest: Paperback Books by Thomas Jerome Baker

Pinterest: Amazon Kindle & Amazon Paperback Books

Please Like my Pinterest Page!



About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Baccalaureate, Culture, Education, Education Technology, Higher Education Teaching & Learning, Reading, Reflections, Research, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s