Competitiveness in education

Other Names:
School pressure
Stress due to examinations
Competitive burden on students
Childhood burnout
Overworked children
Student stress
Cram schools
Examination hell
Excessive education

Children who wish to succeed in academe - or whose parents wish them to do so – may need to start competing at a very young age for places in prestigious schools. To be accepted at a renowned university, one needs to have attended a prominent secondary school. To be accepted at that secondary school, one needs to have attended a good elementary school. To be accepted at that elementary school, one needs to have attended a kindergarten, or even a pre-school, that adequately prepares children for rigorous study. In a society in which the highest paid and most prestigious jobs almost always go to graduates of certain universities, the position one holds at age 60 may have less to do with one's performance when 40 or 50 years old than it does with one's ability to pass examinations at 4 or 5 years old.

With the future of their children at stake, parents push their children young as two or three to achieve high results. Schools develop curricula to meet these demands. Textbook publishers take advantage of these favourable market conditions. Both schools and business encourage competition as selection criteria. All this results in an increased level of stress for children from preschool age through university. Many children end up with "burnout", as young as age 10, and permanent psychological scars. While parents usually recognize the negative effects of academic stress, many claim it is not a terrible as the potential for academic inadequacy and the resulting lack of career and social success.


Japanese students attend school 240 days a year, or over 75% of all days in the year, excluding Sundays. They usually have 34 hours of lessons a week. Many students also attend private cram schools evenings and weekends in order to be prepared for college and high-school entrance examinations. In some cases – one survey says in half of all cases – children as young as 1 or 2 years old are sent to special cram schools in order that they be able to pass the entrance examination of a prestigious kindergarten.

Related Problems:
Association mondiale des sciences de l'éducation (AMSE)
Catholic International Education Office
Education International (EI)
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)
International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)
International Union for Health Promotion and Education (IUHPE)
Association for Experiential Education (AEE)
Association for World Education (AWE)
International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA)
International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA)
International Centre for Innovation in Education (ICIE)
International Federation of Training Centres for the Promotion of Progressive Education
International Higher Education Teaching and Learning Association (HETL)
International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education
International Social Democratic Union for Education (ISDUE)
World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES)
World Education Research Association (WERA)
World Organization for Early Childhood Education
Association for Paediatric Education in Europe (APEE)
Comparative Education Society of Asia (CESA)
European Association of Institutions of Non-formal Education of Children and Youth (EAICY)
European Early Childhood Education Research Association (EECERA)
European Network of Education Councils (EUNEC)
Global Partnership for Education
Plan International
Save the Children International
United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)
Federation for EDucation in Europe (FEDE)
Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA)
International Centre of Educational Systems (ICES)
International Networking for Educational Transformation (iNET)
UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-beingGOAL 4: Quality Education
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST