There is no doubt that academic competitions can serve as strong motivators for students by providing an incentive to study and work hard so they can be ready to compete at a certain level. On the other hand, at Ecole Jean-Jacques Rousseau, we strongly believe in active pedagogy fostering intrinsic motivation, self-direction, and the ability to learn how to learn.
While competitions are usually seen as extrinsic motivators, intrinsic motivation alone is not enough to push children through the drudgery and frustrations that precede success (Damon, 1995). Use of extrinsic motivators is unavoidable up to a certain level of maturity. Research has shown that academic competitions, with the ultimate objective of having students develop sufficient intrinsic motivation, can help children experience a smooth transition and acquire the work habits for sustained accomplishment.
In addition, children’s emotional health, much like that of adults, is related to the development of their innate potential. The process in which children strive to realize their intellectual or talent potential is an important part of gathering self-confidence and selfawareness (Rogers, 1959). Damon (1995) noted that there is a drive for competence in children. While trying to achieve competence, children constantly engage in self-evaluations and draw conclusions about their abilities. Self-esteem and self-respect are, in part, the result of accomplishments. Children, like adults, learn to live rich lives when they continually hold internal conversations about who they are, what they want to achieve, where they are successful, and where they are falling short. In this way, they form and affirm their identity (Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi, & Damon, 2001).
EJJR students compete in several national competitions, as of 2016; the French National Contest and in the NLMC Mathematics contest.
- The goal of the NLMC Mathematics Competition is to encourage students’ interest in math, to develop their problem solving skills, and to inspire them to excel in math. The contest is for students in grades 2-8. More than 30,000 students and more than 765 schools participated in the 2016 contest. The top 10% of all participants in each grade receive “National Honor Roll” Medals. The competition for the medals and the top 10% is fierce. The highest score of each team receives a “Team Winner” Medal.
Our students have received National Honor Roll Medals, Team Winner Medal, and Honorable Mention in the NLMC Mathematics contest.
- The French National Contest is an annual competition where students of French in grades 1-12, in all 50 states and abroad, take a written test and compete against students with similar educational background for prizes. Grades 1-6 participate in the FLES contest.
Our school ratio of national medalists in the French National Contest is one of the highest in the US and among all participating schools. This is our third year in a row to win first place in the French National Competition with Platinum and Gold Medals.
In this contest, students are categorized into levels and divisions based on their age, native fluency background and/or the years of French immersion. They add points to the youngest students’ raw (writing) score to equalize students’ scores and obtain an adjusted score.
Only the top 20% of the students are eligible to participate in the speaking portion of the contest. The competition for the top 20% ranking is fierce each year as a perfect to almost a perfect score in the written part is required to qualify for the speaking part and therefore be eligible for the status of medalist for the final results. The level of enrollment in 2016 was a total of 90,916 participants, 3,788 in the FLES category and 834 medalists.
The Platinum Medal is given only to one person in each category (i.e the person who got the highest score among all the participants in that category. Each category has hundreds of students competing nationally. Gold is given to the top 5% of students. Prizes awarded in the French National Contest are :
- Platinum Medal: Highest score in the level/division – Rank #1
- Gold Medal Students in the 95th percentile
- Silver Medal: Students in the 90th or 85th percentile
- Bronze Medal: students in the 80th or 75th percentile
- Mention d’honneur certificate: Students in the 70th to the 50th percentil