Educational reform must move away from the ‘competition trap’

In a new paper, Professor Rajani Naidoo warns that contemporary education reform worldwide is locked in a ‘competition fetish’ and argues that we need a new approach.

Professor Naidoo discusses the varieties of competition, including traditional academic forms, contests sponsored by governments and international organisations, market competition and status wars intensified by rankings.

She argues that competition is not naturally occurring. Rather, it is caused by structural drivers associated with political and regulatory regimes, and symbolic drivers constituted by normative and affective pressures.

She also highlights the unintended consequences of competition on social equity, academic work and global wellbeing, and points out that it forecloses alternative means of educational reform.

To escape the ‘competition trap’, Professor Naidoo argues that the higher education community as a whole needs to find ways through research, teaching and community engagement to re-collectivise.

The focus should be shifted away from building world-class universities to building world-class systems. Such systems would contribute to social and economic development for all.

The competition fetish in higher education: Shamans, mind snares and consequences is published in European Educational Research Journal